Ritz v. Ramsay, 305 A.3d 1056 (Pa. Super. 2023)

Methadone Clinic Owed No Duty to Jogger Killed by Negligently Treated Patient

The decedent plaintiff in this matter was struck and killed by a vehicle operated by Ramsay, a patient of the defendant, a methadone clinic. Ramsay had been given an unusually large dose of methadone from the clinic shortly before the accident, which the plaintiff proffered posed an unreasonable risk to the public as the clinic was aware that Ramsay was still using nonprescription antianxiety drugs and marijuana irrespective of his methadone treatment. On preliminary objections, the plaintiff’s claims against the clinic were dismissed on demurrer for failure to state a claim. On appeal, the plaintiff argued the over-dose of methadone created a foreseeable risk of Ramsay harming others and analogized the case to matters in which a physician has been found to have a duty to warn their patient of the risks of spreading a communicable disease to others and a duty to warn those whom their patient has threatened with serious bodily injury. The Superior Court upheld dismissal, holding no special relationship existed by the plaintiff and the defendant as the plaintiff was not an identifiable and easily foreseeable third party effected by Ramsay’s negligent treatment. The import of this decision is that it demonstrates the court’s reluctance to expose medical providers to third-party claims by the public at large for injuries caused by their patients. 

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