A recent case in Ontario demonstrates how doctors may be liable for breaching the Standard of Care.
In 2013, a woman went to a Wal-Mart store on Boxing Day and slipped on a hanger, falling to the ground. After being taken to the hospital, the plaintiff was diagnosed with a left knee dislocation. The next morning, she was airlifted to another hospital as the blood flow in her left leg was seriously compromised. After an unsuccessful surgery that attempted to save her leg, the plaintiff had to amputate her leg.
The plaintiff brought an action against two physicians, with the main issues being if the doctors’ conduct breached the standard of care and if the breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.
The emergency physician, Dr. Calvin Tai-Len Lian, was found to not have breached the standard of care when the plaintiff first arrived at the hospital and the triage nurse notified Lian of the plaintiff’s unusual amount of pain. The judge did find Lian had breached the standard of care by not properly examining the plaintiff when he reassessed her. Lian also did not notify the orthapaedic surgeon, Dr.Kafai Lai, of concerns that the plaintiff could be developing compartment syndrome.
Once the plaintiff was admitted to Lai’s care, the judge found that he was the most responsible physician. The judge states that “at a minimum, he has to ensure that the physical examination that he would have had to perform was adequately performed by another health care professional.”. Because of the uncommon nature of the plaintiff’s knee injury and the serious risks associated, it was not reasonable for Lai to assume that the emergency room physician would know what to check and properly treat it.
When determining causation, expert witnesses for the defendants and plaintiff had different approaches regarding the window of treatment that would have allowed the plaintiff’s leg to be saved. However, the plaintiff was not operated on until hours after the time frames identified by expert witnesses.
Both physicians were found to have breached the standard of care and caused the plaintiff’s injury as a result.
Read the full case here.
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