Steven Plitt, Expert Witness Steven Plitt, Expert Witness
Insurance Bad Faith Claim Handling Expert Serving Clients Nationwide

OHIO COURT FINDS THAT PHYSICIAN'S SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH A PATIENT DID NOT CONSTITUTE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

In Beattie v. McCoy, 2018-Ohio-2535, 115 N.E.3d 867, the Court held that professional liability policies did not cover medical malpractice actions arising from a physician's sexual relationship with a patient. The policy in question provided coverage for defined "professional services." The policy defined "professional services" as "medical, surgical, dental, imaging, mental or other healthcare professional service or treatments . . . [and the] provision of drugs, healthcare supplies or appliances." Under the facts presented there was no obligation to provide coverage.

In this case the insured doctor was the claimant's internist. During treatment the claimant alleged that the doctor touched her in a sexual manner, which she did not discourage. Both were married at the time. Nevertheless, a sexual relationship ensued which lasted for over a year. Later, the claimant filed a complaint with the state medical board. The claimant withdrew the charges, but the medical board continued its investigation, resulting in the doctor's loss of her medical license. The claimant then sued the doctor for medical malpractice for engaging in a sexual relationship with her.

In the ensuing litigation, the claimant argued that the doctor's failure to refrain from engaging in a sexual relationship or to rebuke claimant's sexual advances was a part of the professional services that the doctor had rendered. This argument was rejected. The Court found that the natural and commonly accepted meaning of "professional service" did not encompass a doctor's abstention from a sexual relationship with a patient.

Next the claimant argued that a treating physician's professional services included recognizing a patient's transference principle and avoiding a sexual relationship. The Court also rejected this argument, finding that the sexual relationship was not closely related to treatment. Although the doctor treated the claimant for a variety of minor medical problems, when the claimant asked the doctor to help with depression the doctor referred her to a therapist. The sexual relationship did not begin until approximately one year later. The Court found that the doctor did not engage in an intimate therapeutic relationship with the claimant.

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