481659 - Law and Veterinary Medicine Malpractice November...

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Law and Veterinary Medicine Malpractice November 30, 2006 Paul Waldau, D.Phil., J.D.
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… a little refreshment … ± Making sure you’re clear on the contract-tort distinction and why it is so important in the legal system ± Chart—civil system broken into two divisions ± Contracts —property and commercial transactions (part of veterinarians’ life) dealt with in civil system ± Torts —social regulation (part of everyone’s life) dealt with in civil system ± Crimes —highly anti-social acts dealt with in parallel criminal system ± Equity —courts, judges try to create fairness
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Grappling with malpractice ± Having been through torts and contracts, and now knowing something about the civil law system … ± … you now have the ability to grasp the central points of the malpractice problem ± Key—the basic legal standard
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Minutes paper ± What is the basic standard by which malpractice is measured? ± “A veterinarian must exercise the care and diligence ordinarily exercised by skilled veterinarians
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Malpractice basics—what you should know by end of this lecture ± Malpractice is, as a legal matter, an extension of the law of negligence (a tort) ± We have a general “substantive law” rule for everyone in our society about behavior … ± … said negatively, you don’t get to be “negligent” if it harms others
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Malpractice basics ± Said positively, you must act as a reasonably prudent person would ± Since negligence in the practice of medicine can harm others … ± … we have protections against harms done by human and animal doctors … ± … and these we put under the name “malpractice”
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Malpractice basics ± Clearly, intentional acts can also be the basis for malpractice ± Importantly, not all negligence found in veterinary settings is malpractice ± Like any other business, veterinary practices have to act reasonably (“water on floor of clinic entrance” example)
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More to know by end of this lecture ± There must be more than a mere mistake in the practice of veterinary medicine for there to be legally significant malpractice ± —damages needed ± “Malpractice” (a tort) isn’t the only basis for suing a veterinarian when a mistake has been made in the practice of veterinary medicine ± —could also sue for breach of contract
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Social basics on malpractice ± Many reasons why the issue is important ± Professional fulfillment, integrity and pride ± State’s concern with its licensed professionals ± Public’s concern—two recent cases
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California ± February 24, 2004, Los Angeles Times ± “Jury Awards Dog Owner $39,000 in Malpractice Suit”
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Ferment theme ± … highest amount ever reported awarded by a court in a U. S. dog malpractice case
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481659 - Law and Veterinary Medicine Malpractice November...

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