Malpractice case reinstated with limits
October 11, 2007
The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday ruled a malpractice case against a medical school doctor should go forward – but put limits on the amount of any judgment against him.
Dr. John Martinez, an employee with the University of Nevada Medical School, was sued by the family of Robert Maruszczak who died at University Medical Center because of what were described as “accidental injuries” while under Martinez’s care.
Martinez argued as a public employee he was covered by immunity and couldn’t be sued. The family argued that at the time he was actually working for MedAssociates, not the medical school, and was therefore not entitled to immunity.
The district court agreed with the family, ruling his treatment of the deceased was a nongovernmental function and that “proprietary” activities of government such as medical practice don’t enjoy immunity.
In the opinion by Chief Justice Bill Maupin, the court unanimously ruled the work at MedAssociates was required as part of Martinez’s contract with the medical school, making him a public employee while he was providing treatment. It further ruled the “operation of a public hospital is a core government function designed to ensure broad availability of medical care.”
According to the opinion, that means Martinez can be sued. However, the opinion states, any damages a jury might order are limited to the $50,000 state damage cap because he was acting as a public employee. The court rejected the argument that the state’s cap on damages is unconstitutional.
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The case was returned to the Clark County District Court for trial.