Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Punitive Damages Claim Allowed to Proceed Against Medical Corporation in Med Mal Case

In the case of Garvey v. Adamo, No. 19-CV-1893 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Dec. 17, 2019 Nealon, J.), the court addressed the issue of vicarious liability of a healthcare provider for punitive damages. 

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff in this matter instituted a medical malpractice action against his former treating physician, that doctor’s medical partners, and their professional corporation, under allegations that the doctor prescribed opioids to the Plaintiff in excessive amounts, causing the Plaintiff to become drug-dependent and require treatment for an opioid addiction. 

The Plaintiff alleged in the Complaint that the doctor’s professional corporation and his partners knew, or had reason to know, of the doctor’s improper administration of opioids, which actually cumulated in the doctor’s guilty plea in a criminal case. 

Before the court were Preliminary Objections filed by the professional corporation seeking to dismiss the punitive damages claim pursuant to §505(b) of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act. 

Judge Nealon ruled that, under §505(c) of the MCARE Act, a healthcare provider may be vicarious liability for punitive damages only if it was aware of the agent’s reckless conduct and allowed it to occur. 

Judge Nealon wrote, as he has done in the cases involving motor vehicle accidents that, although recklessness is a condition on the mind that may be averred generally under Pa. R.C.P. 1019(b), in this case the Plaintiff had alleged that the professional corporation “had actual notice” of its doctor’s unconscionable administration of opioids and still “allowed the conduct” by the doctor to continue. Based on these allegations, the court overruled the corporation’s demurrer to the punitive damages claim. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Jonathan Comitz of the Wilkes-Barre, PA law firm of Comitz Law Firm, LLC for bringing this case to my attention. 

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