Family Physician's Conduct Was Not "Grossly Negligent"
Obtained summary judgment in a medical malpractice case on behalf of a family practice physician consulted to provide medical management for a female patient admitted to the hospital’s mental health unit. On the fourth day of the patient’s stay, she died as a result of bilateral pulmonary emboli. The case brought against the admitting psychiatrist, the hospital and our client alleged gross negligence in failing to provide prophylactic anticoagulation and failing to appreciate the risk for development of deep vein thrombosis due to an alleged immobility. The defense successfully argued that our physician client was covered by the provisions of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act because the doctor’s care of the patient was medical care designed to facilitate the patient’s recovery from mental illness; therefore, the doctor was entitled to immunity. Although the plaintiff’s counsel asserted gross negligence in the complaint, the court determined that our client’s conduct did not rise to this level. The defense's motion and brief pointed to all of the steps the doctor had taken to treat the patient for conditions of dehydration and tachycardia, as well as his assessment of DVT risk prior to death. The court agreed and granted summary judgment.