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COA affirms ruling clearing consulting doctor in death case claiming negligence

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A trial court properly granted summary judgment to a doctor defending a negligence case brought by the estate of a man who died, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, finding no doctor-patient relationship existed.

In Steven Harper and Rose Harper as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Steven Harper, Deceased v. Gerry Hippensteel, M.D.,  42A04-1302-MI-95, the appellate panel found the doctor owed no duty to Steven Harper Jr., who died at the Primary Care Clinic in Vincennes in November 2008 after suffering a pulmonary embolism and deep venous thrombosis.

Dr. Gerry Hippensteel had entered into an Indiana Collaborative Practice Agreement with nurse practitioner Vonetta Vories, in which Hippensteel consulted and reviewed a random 5 percent sampling of the nurse’s patient records, including medications prescribed.  

The court concluded that the undisputed facts prove Hippensteel didn’t owe a duty to Harper in the traditional sense because he had never seen him as a patient and never discussed his case with Vories. It then dealt with the question of whether the Collaborative Practice Agreement established a duty for the doctor.

“Because the CPA explicitly states that its terms do not place any increased liability on Dr. Hippensteel for decisions made by NP Vories, and indicates that NP Vories had the independent authority to treat patients as she saw fit, we cannot conclude that Dr. Hippensteel entered into a physician-patient relationship with each of NP Vories’s patients merely because he entered into a CPA with NP Vories,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the panel that included Judges Mark Bailey and Melissa May.

“Accordingly, because the CPA did not increase Dr. Hippensteel’s liability, Dr. Hippensteel could only be found to have entered into a physician-patient relationship and, as a result, acquired a duty to NP Vories’s patients, if he performed any affirmative act with regard to the patient,” the panel held.



 

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