Ohio Supreme Court Rules UTMC Not Responsible in Malpractice Case

BY JIM PROVANCE BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday unanimously rejected the argument that a doctor accused of medical malpractice was immune from lawsuit because a medical student at a taxpayer-funded university was observing that day. Dr. Marek Skoskiewicz, a private physician from Napoleon performing surgery on a private patient in the private Henry County Hospital, had successfully argued in lower courts that he was acting as an arm of the state at the time because a third-year student from the University of Toledo College of Medicine was in the room. The court overturned a ruling in Dr. Skoskiewicz’s favor by the Columbus-based 10th District Court of Appeals, and sent the case back to Henry County Common Pleas Court where it originated. “Dr. Skoskiewicz and the many other volunteer clinical faculty in Ohio provide an important service,’’ Justice Paul Pfeifer wrote. “But that service, however commendable, does not transform the volunteers behind it into an arm of the state.’’ A ruling in the doctor’s favor could have left the university’s legally liable because this doctor had been appointed as a volunteer clinical instructor by the school. He received a small stipend through private, non-profit organization for his role. The high court, however, found that Dr. Skoskiewicz was treating a private patient in a private hospital and that there was no contract of employment between him and the school, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital. “In truth, based on the record before us, the appointment did not enable Dr. Skoskiewicz to do anything except, as stipulated, allow students to ‘rotate through Dr. Skoskiewicz’s practice as part of one-month clerkships’,’’ Justice Pfeifer wrote. Dr. Skoskiewicz’s patient, Larry Engel, Jr., had initially filed his malpractice complaint in Henry County, but the doctor succeeded in having the case dismissed with the argument that UT should be the defendant. The case was placed on hold while separate proceedings were initiated against UT in the Ohio Court of Claims in Columbus. UT President Lloyd Jacobs thought the case was important enough for him to personally attend the Supreme Court arguments earlier this year.

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