Consider the following scenario: A patient is given pain medication in a hospital emergency room which impairs the ability to operate a motor vehicle. The doctor who administers the medication discharges the patient from the hospital without advising her not to drive while on the medication. On the way home from the hospital, the patient, still under the influence of the pain medication, veers into opposing traffic, causing an accident. Can an individual injured in that motor vehicle accident sue the doctor at the hospital who administered pain medication without informing the patient not to drive? The New York Court of Appeals recently said yes.
The above fact pattern is precisely what occurred in Davis v. South Nassau Communities Hospital. Lorraine Walsh presented to the South Nassau Communities Hospital emergency room on March 4, 2009 with stomach pain. A doctor there gave her a heavy pain medication, Dilaudid, and then discharged her home a short time later.
The doctor never warned Ms. Walsh that Dilaudid could impair her ability to drive. Ms. Walsh drove herself home from the hospital. On her way, she crossed into oncoming traffic, striking a vehicle being driven by Edward Davis. Mr. Davis suffered injuries in the accident. He then sued the hospital and physician for medical malpractice, alleging that the hospital and doctor were negligent in failing to warn Ms. Walsh of the danger involved in driving while under the influence of Dilaudid.