Pate v. Threlkel

661 So. 2d 278 (Fla. 1995)



When the prevailing standard of care creates a duty that is obviously for the benefit of certain identified third parties and the physician knows of the existence of those third parties, then the physician's duty runs to those third parties.


Petitioner challenged the dismissal of her claims of negligence against respondent doctor for failing to warn petitioner's mother, whom respondent had treated for a genetically transferable disease, that petitioner was also at risk for developing the disease. The appellate court certified for review the legal question of whether a physician owes a duty of care to the children of a patient to warn the patient of the genetically transferable nature of the condition for which the physician is treating the patient. On appeal, the state's highest court answered the question affirmatively.


Does a physician owe a duty of care to the children of a patient, by warning the patient of the genetically transferable nature of her condition?




Respondent had a duty to warn his patient that petitioner, his patient's daughter, was at risk of developing a lethal disease respondent knew to be genetically transferable, even though petitioner was not in privity with respondent. However, the court also held that respondent could discharge his duty to warn by telling his patient, petitioner's mother, of the risk and that respondent had no duty to personally warn petitioner. The court reversed the dismissal of petitioner's negligence claim and remanded for further proceedings.

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