Plaintiffs suing some Yankton hospitals and the executive and peer review committees over the deadly malpractice of fugitive surgeon Allen Sossan just got a big boost from Circuit Court Judge Bruce Anderson. According the Jonathan Ellis, Judge Anderson has ruled that hospitals and individuals involved in credentialing decisions can be sued for allowing bad doctors to practice:
Anderson’s ruling sets the stage for South Dakota becoming a state that allows lawsuits against health providers under a concept known as “negligent credentialing.” At least 30 other states recognize the tort that hospitals have an obligation not to allow health providers to practice.
“Based upon this court’s review of the law and the briefs presented in these cases it appears South Dakota has all the necessary legal precedents as ingredients other courts have found prerequisite to adopting such a claim including a hospital’s duty of care for patient safety,” Anderson wrote [Jonathan Ellis, “Ruling Opens Hospitals to Lawsuits,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.10.26].
Judge Anderson also ruled that defendants in cases like the Sossan lawsuits cannot claim peer review privilege as an absolute defense against discovery requests. Judge Anderson says that hospitals’ obligation to the public can outweigh professional confidentiality concerns.
The lawsuits against Yankton hospitals and decision-makers has implications beyond simply making things right for patients and family survivors who suffered losses at the hands of Dr. Sossan. Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, as attorney for Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, is among the defendants named in the pending lawsuits. Licensed Yankton physician Harald Lars Aanning has filed an affidavit in one of those lawsuits stating that attorney Michels played a pivotal role in securing the Avera Medical Executive Council’s (MEC) approval of Sossan’s employment:
If Matt Michels is held liable for subjecting Yankton patients to Allen Sossan’s malpractice, the Lieutenang Governor may have trouble entering the 2018 gubernatorial lottery.