The appeal before the court raises the question as to whether a patient of a medical group that has allegedly suffered from an injury caused by malpractice of the doctors that are associated with the group is entitled to the benefit of the continuous treatment doctrine against the doctors that have allegedly committed the malpractice where the patient has continued to receive treatment for the same injury, illness, or condition from other members of the same group after the alleged wrongdoing doctors have left the group.
The defendants are two physicians who left the group. They have moved for summary judgment at Special Term on the basis of the alleged termination of the relationship of each of the movants with the other defendants that were their former partners. They argue that upon leaving the group the statute of limitations started to run for any acts of malpractice that they may have committed while a member of the group. As a consequence of this argument, the action in this particular case that was started in February of 1980 is time barred.
This motion has been denied by the Special Term. The reason for denying the motion was stated that there is a question of fact in regard to the case that needs to be resolved. The court must determine whether a sufficient nexus exists between the moving defendants and the doctors in the group practice that continued to treat the patient after they left.
The medical malpractice action in this case was filed by the defendant patient in February, 1980. The plaintiff in the case had his first contact with the defendants in 1973 when he met with the physician because of constant pain, tingling, and numbness in his leg. The doctor concluded that the symptoms were coming from a mass lesion or tumor in the left cerebral hemisphere. He recommended that the plaintiff be admitted for further neurological testing.
The two Bronx doctors that left the group last treated the patient in January of 1974. One of the doctors left the group in August of 1974 and the other left in December of the same year. The patient continued to be cared for by the group until 1978.
Court Discussion and Decision
The Brooklyn court is affirming the decision that was made in the Special Term that denied the motion for summary judgment on the grounds of the complaint being time barred.
In this particular case the court finds that the continuous treatment doctrine is applicable to toll the Statute of Limitation for a malpractice action against the physicians that allegedly committed an act of medical malpractice and have terminated their relationship with the group medical practice. If the patient was considered to be a group patient, was treated by the group, and remained under the care of the group even after the primary care physicians have left the group, the continuous treatment doctrine must be applied.
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