Prof. Ronald W. Eades On The Jennings v. Badgett Oklahoma Medical Malpractice Ruling

In this Emerging Issues Analysis, Ronald W. Eades, a Professor of Law Emeritus from the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, University of Louisville,explores Jennings v. Badgett (230 P.3d 861, 2010 OK 7 [2010]), in which the Supreme Court of Oklahoma addressed an issue of first impression: Whether a physician-patient relationship was an indispensable element in an action for medical malpractice against a physician. He writes:

"The opinion in Jennings v. Badgett, 230 P.3d 861, 2010 OK 7 (2010), covers two issues. First, it states clearly that the existence of a physician-patient relationship is necessary for a patient to bring an action in medical malpractice against a physician. Second, it helps explain the elements of a physician-patient relationship by holding that, in this case, that relationship did not exist between the patient and one of the physician/defendants. . . .

"The opinion of the Court started simply with the statement that an action in malpractice required the same four elements as other negligence claims. Those elements are duty owed to the defendant, a breach of that duty, injury and a causal connection between the breach and the injury. Jennings v. Badgett, 230 P.3d 861, 865, 2010 OK 7 (2010). The duty issue was the primary concern in this case.

"The Court noted that the duty of care in a malpractice action essentially arises from an employment contract. The physician does not owe a duty to provide services to all, and, therefore, only owes a duty to those whom the physician consents to treat. . . .

"The Court did note that there is, at least, one area where a strict contractual relationship between the physician and plaintiff may not be required."

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