Define That Term #133
Monday's NY Blawg Round Up

Second Department: Hospital Beds Shouldn't Collapse

In Aiosa v Mercy Med. Ctr., 2006 NY Slip Op 06140, the Second Department recently reinstated a medical malpractice claim against a nurse midwife and the ob/gyn group that employed her.  The claim was based upon injuries alleged to have occurred when the birthing bed upon which the plaintiff was laying collapsed three times immediately after she'd given birth.  Talk about bad timing. 

The trial court held that the defendants owed no duty of care to the plaintiff to safely operate the bed.  Not surprisingly, the Second Department reversed that decision: 

Contrary to the Supreme Court's determination, Fitzsimmons and OGS owed a duty to the plaintiff to avoid operating the birthing bed in an improper and unsafe manner that would cause the various segments of the bed to fold or collapse suddenly while a patient was on it.  The transcript of the plaintiff's deposition testimony...reflects her unambiguous testimony that the foot of the bed collapsed immediately after each of the two attempts made by Fitzsimmons to adjust and secure the foot segment of the bed. As a result, (defendants) failed in their moving papers to establish that they neither exercised control over the bed, nor caused the bed to collapse by their improper and unsafe operation. 

I think that conclusion is fairly self evident. Am I the only one surprised by the trial court's decision?   Of course there was a duty owed to the plaintiff in this situation.  And, absent allegations of a defect in the bed (and there was no indication of that type of claim in the decision), I think that at this stage of the proceedings, it's too early to conclude that the midwife was not at least partially liable for the plaintiff's alleged injuries.  If nothing else, there's a feasible res ipsa claim here, although I think that simple negligence could arguably apply as well.  Beds that are not defective don't just collapse, unless they're not being properly maintained or operated.   

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