Bloomington Hospital treated Malia Vandeneede for injuries she said she sustained when she fell off a horse onto some debris. After treatment, she was discharged into her former husband’s custody. He killed her on their way home, then killed himself. Ava McSwane, Malia’s mother and personal representative, sued the Hospital and Dr. Jean Eelma, who treated Malia, asserting they had a duty to protect her from the domestic violence. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Hospital and Doctor on the grounds they had no duty toward Malia and Malia was contributorily negligent.
Conclusion (slip op. at 20): A hospital has a statutory duty to report suspected abuse of an endangered adult, and its independent duty to safeguard its patient from dangers that might result from circumstances within the hospital’s control extends to the discharge of a patient into the custody of the person who allegedly inflicted the injuries that necessitated her hospitalization. The Hospital therefore should not have been granted summary judgment on the ground it owed Malia no duty. In light of the conflicting factual inferences as to Malia’s contributory negligence, summary judgment for the Hospital on that ground was also improper. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
BAKER, C.J., dissenting: I must dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the Hospital had a duty to Malia to refuse to discharge her to the care of her husband. In imposing this astonishingly broad duty upon medical caregivers, the majority essentially relies upon two rationales—the endangered adult statute and common law tort cases. I find both rationales to be fundamentally flawed . . .
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