Faulty Blood Test Results Do Not Make Doctor Liable For Patients ER Bill.

Author:Rogak, Lawrence N.

Topiel v Caremount Med., P.C., 2020 NY Slip Op 50151 (U) (Appellate Term, Second Department 2020)

Your doctor takes your blood for testing. When the results come back he tells you to go to an Emergency Room because you have a potentially fatal condition. But it turns out the blood test result was wrong. Is the doctor liable for your emergency room bill? That was the situation here--in an appeal from the Justice Court of Mount Kisco, New York to the Appellate Term.

It's quite unusual for a plaintiff to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit in Small Claims Court, but this plaintiff did--pro se, at that. He sued for $2,244.05, the amount charged him by Northern Westchester Hospital for emergency room services. At his nonjury trial, plaintiff testified that, at an annual physical at defendant medical center, he had received erroneous results from a potassium blood test he had taken there. He returned to defendants medical center later that day for a retest of his potassium level and for an EKG, which checks for signs of heart disease. Based upon that EKG and the first blood test, but before the second test's results were available, a doctor at defendant's medical center directed plaintiff to go to a hospital emergency room, asserting that the EKG results were "severe" and that his life was in danger.

At the hospital, plaintiff's retest showed that his potassium levels were normal, as was his EKG. Plaintiff later learned at the hospital that his earlier high potassium levels were a result of lab error and that the finding that the EKG was "severe" was in error. Plaintiff stated that had he known about a possible lab error, he would not have gone to the hospital and is seeking reimbursement of the portion of his hospital bill which was not covered by insurance. Plaintiff did not provide an expert witness to support his cause of action.

Defendant's expert witness testified that an elevated potassium level is a common lab error due to the turbulence of the red blood cells and that it was standard practice to have plaintiff return for a second potassium test and, under the circumstances, an EKG, which is what was ordered. Defendant's expert also testified that given the high level of potassium from plaintiff's first test and the changes between plaintiff's 2012 EKG and his current EKG, defendant exercised reasonable judgment in directing plaintiff to go to the emergency room to be monitored immediately.

Following the trial, a judgment was entered in...

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