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Kowalski v. St. Francis Hosp. and Health Centers

Court of Appeals of New York

June 26, 2013

Kevin KOWALSKI, Appellant,
v.
ST. FRANCIS HOSPITAL AND HEALTH CENTERS et al., Respondents, et al., Defendants.

Page 481

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 482

[972 N.Y.S.2d 187] Bleakley Platt & Schmidt, White Plains (Susan E. Galvã o, John P. Hannigan, Vincent W. Crowe and Robert D. Meade of counsel), for appellant.

The Law Offices of Steinberg, Symer & Platt, LLP, Poughkeepsie (Robert R. Haskins of counsel), for St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers, respondent.

Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP, New York City (Robert A. Spolzino, Judy C. Selmeci, Marshal S. Endick and Jeffrey B. Araten), of counsel, for Chandra Chintapalli, M.D. respondent.

Phelan, Phelan & Danek, LLP, Albany (Timothy S. Brennan of counsel), for Emergency Physician Services of New York, P.C., respondent.

Page 483

OPINION

SMITH, J.

[995 N.E.2d 149] We hold that, on the facts of this case, a hospital and an emergency room doctor did not owe an intoxicated patient a duty to prevent him from leaving the hospital.

Page 484

I

Plaintiff was brought by a friend to the emergency room of defendant St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers, seeking admission to St. Francis's detoxification facility, known as " Turning Point." This was at least plaintiffs second visit to St. Francis; he had been admitted there in the previous month with suicidal thoughts and had been placed on a " one-to-one watch." On that occasion, he improved after receiving medication and was discharged. Apparently, no one at the hospital consulted the record of plaintiff's previous visit when he returned.

There is no evidence that plaintiff was suicidal on his later visit to St. Francis. But he showed signs of severe intoxication, including red eyes, garbled speech and a strong smell of alcohol. His blood-alcohol content was extremely high: .369%. He was, however, alert and able to walk. He was seen by an emergency room ...


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