Stanley v. McCarver
In Stanley v. McCarver, 208 Ariz. 219, 221, P 5, 92 P.3d 849, 851 (2004), Dr. McCarver conducted a pre-employment tuberculosis screening of the plaintiff on behalf of the plaintiff's prospective employer. Id. at 220, P 2, 92 P.3d at 850.
Dr. McCarver found several abnormalities in the plaintiff's chest, but did not report these to the plaintiff. Id. Ten months later, the plaintiff was diagnosed with lung cancer. Id.
In applying the duty factors, the supreme court acknowledged that Dr. McCarver and the plaintiff did not have a formal relationship. Id. at 223, P 13, 92 P.3d at 853.
The doctor did, however, agree to examine the plaintiff's "confidential medical record, her x-ray, and accurately report the results to" her prospective employer. Id.
In doing so, "Dr. McCarver placed himself in a unique position to prevent future harm to Ms. Stanley." Id. at P 14.
Stanley noted that when a patient places "oneself in the hands of a medical professional, even at the request of one's employer or insurer, one may have a reasonable expectation that the 'expert will warn of any incidental dangers of which he is cognizant due to his peculiar knowledge of his specialization.'" Id. at 223, P 11, 92 P.3d at 853.
Stanley provides a number of factors that courts may consider when determining the existence of a duty. Id. at 223, P 12, 92 P.3d at 853.
These include, whether the doctor was in a unique position to prevent harm, the burden of preventing harm, whether the plaintiff relied upon the doctor's diagnosis or interpretation, the closeness of the connection between the defendant's conduct and the injury suffered, the degree of certainty that the plaintiff has suffered or will suffer harm, the skill or special reputation of the actors, and public policy.
Stanley acknowledged, however, that a formal relationship is not the only source of a doctor's duty toward a patient. Stanley, 208 Ariz. at 221, P 7, 92 P.3d at 851.