Washington High Court Upholds Precedent in Interstate Liability Case

Case involves doctor providing care to football player in Idaho, who then died after injury in Washington
Case involves doctor providing care to football player in Idaho, who then died after injury in Washington

HealthDay News — The Washington State high court has ruled against interstate medical liability, according to a report from the American Medical Association.

The case relates to a fatality resulting from injuries that occurred during a high-school football game in Washington State. The patient, a 17-year-old Idaho resident, had been injured in a football game and was examined by his childhood primary care physician in Idaho. The boy reported headaches and neck pain after a hard hit to the head. The physician was subsequently asked to provide written clearance for participation in a football game in Washington after the boy's mother told the physician that the boy's headaches had stopped. 

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The boy appeared sluggish, confused, and slow to respond in the next game, and after a hard hit by an opposing player, he collapsed, dying 2 days later. The parents filed a lawsuit against the school, volunteer coach, and physician 3 years later. However, the state Supreme Court ruled that Washington courts did not have jurisdiction over the care provided by the physician, in accordance with a 1992 precedent.

"If malpractice were to become a 'portable tort,' physicians may feel compelled to interrogate patients about their residence and travel plans, and to decide on that basis whether to provide care," according to the amicus brief filed by the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies.

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