Duty of Care: Minnesota Court Rules That a Physician's Consultative Relationship with a Nurse Practitioner Does Not Give Rise to a Physician-Patient Relationship

March 28, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​​​​Ruling in a wrongful death case, a Minnesota appeals court concluded as a matter of law that a mere "working relationship" between a hospitalist and a nurse practitioner did not establish a physician-patient relationship between the hospitalist and a patient whom the nurse practitioner treated. Because no "physician-patient relationship" existed, the hospitalist owed no duty of care to the patient and thus could not be held liable for her death, the court concluded, in an unpublished opinion. In so ruling, the court affirmed a lower court's grant of summary judgment to the hospitalist and the hospital that employed him.

The patient visited a clinic, reporting abdominal pain, fever, chills, and other symptoms. A nurse practitioner who examined her concluded, after testing, that the patient should be hospitalized. The nurse practitioner contacted a local hospital and discussed the case with a hospitalist there. The clinic and the hospital were separate, unaffiliated legal entities with no contractual relationship, but consultations between them were common practice. The nurse practitioner did not...

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