A press release announces a landmark ruling by a Pennsylvania Court on Monday. A Blair County Common Pleas Court judge has ruled that methadone clinics can be liable for corporate negligence, just like hospitals. This is believed to be the first ruling of its kind in Pennsylvania.
The ruling comes as a result of a lawsuit brought before the court in 2004 against a private for-profit methadone clinic in Pennsylvania, a hospital, and a psychiatrist. The estate of Crystal M. Ickes filed this suit with the court. Crystal M. Ickes was a single mother of three who died in a car crash shortly after leaving Alliance Medical Services, Inc., a methadone clinic in Johnstown, PA. Crystal was returning home after her visit to the clinic, a journey of 46 miles back to her home in neighboring Altoona, PA.
Less than an hour after receiving the methadone dose, the car Ickes was driving crossed a median strip and struck a car operated by Matthew Stever, who suffered head injuries resulting in permanent neurological damage.
The Ickes complaint states that the combination of methadone, anti-depressants, and sleeping pills had impaired her ability to drive safely. The complaint states that she must have either suffered a seizure or fallen asleep at the wheel. This conclusion is supported by the fact that her car left no skid marks during this incident.
Judge Hiram A. Carpenter stated in this opinion, “For purposes of corporate liability, Alliance clearly meets the criteria of a healthcare provider.” Alliance attorneys cited a Superior Court decision in Shannon v. McNulty, a lawsuit against an HMO. This case concluded that corporate liability is inapplicable to facilities that deal with limited aspects of a patient’s care. Hospitals, on the other hand, provide a total healthcare approach to their patients.
The judge disagreed, however, and argued that the defendants’ reliance on Shannon was “misplaced.” The judge cited another case, Thomson v. Nason, where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court revealed a two-prong corporate liability test that the judge felt was met in the Ickes case.
The judge wrote in the opinion, “First, Plaintiff alleges that Alliance knew that its policies were ineffective in protecting the safety of its patients, yet failed to correct them. Plaintiff additionally alleges that failure resulted in Ms. Ickes being allowed to leave the facility to operate a vehicle in an overly-sedated state, causing her injuries.”
This case is a landmark case as far as corporate negligence for healthcare providers goes. Other cases involving injuries suffered and inflicted by patients undergoing treatment at methadone clinics have come forth recently. With this decision by the Pennsylvania court today, we will have to see if the methadone clinics take extra precautions when treating their patients.
PR Newswire Press Release, http://media.prnewswire.com/en/jsp/search.jsp?searchtype=full&option=headlines&criteriadisplay=show&resourceid=3529956