The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a recent ruling that said a physician could be held liable for emotional distress even if there was no physical negligence to the person being harmed.
The case involved a mother who says her physician, a radiologist, failed to prepare her for the emotional distress of delivering a baby with physical deformities. The mother had received an ultrasound prior to giving birth in which she was told the baby was healthy.
The mother said she suffered “ongoing grief, rage, nightmares, nausea, hysteria and insomnia,” according to an article in Amednews.com. She sued the physician as well as the hospital where she received care.
"What's interesting here is that it's not as if the radiologist misdiagnosed something that could have been treated or corrected," says Mark F. Weiss, of Advisory Law Group in Los Angeles, a firm specializing in legal issues affecting medical groups.
The case is said to open the door for similar lawsuits against physicians for non-economic damages. In its decision, the court cited several cases in other states including New Jersey, New York, Texas and Wyoming where the courts granted awards for emotional distress even though there was no physical harm done.
Weiss says it isn't clear whether the case will have broad implications or not. "As it broadens the ways in which claims can be litigated against physicians in general, perhaps it will. only time will tell," Weiss says. "On the other hand, I'm not sure the fact pattern, that the negligence does not result in some physical type of injury, is all that common in potential cases."
For a link to the court ruling click here.
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