It does not look like Vermont’s Supreme Court considers the director UVM’s student health center to be liable for the improper actions of a physician assistant. Here is how a piece posted yesterday on WCAX TV’s website described this new development:
The Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that the director of the University of Vermont’s student health center was not legally liable for the actions of a physician assistant who improperly prescribed opiate medications to 12 students.
The Burlington Free Press reports that the court’s decision affirms a ruling by the state Medical Practice Board that cleared Dr. Jon Porter in his oversight of a long-time physician’s assistant.
Porter was accused of failing to supervise Peter Nobes who refilled opiate prescriptions supposedly lost or stolen, and prescribed opiate medications to students without evidence that a physical exam or an in-person visit had occurred.
The board rejected a recommendation that Porter be found guilty of unprofessional conduct but not face any disciplinary action.
The attorney general’s office appealed the decision.
Let me get this straight. The supervisor of a UVM employee is not liable for that employee’s action, but numerous court cases around the nation have held private companies liable for the use of the company’s product on the part of customers? The most famous example being the successful lawsuit of McDonalds when a court decided that their coffee was too hot. One would think that the supervisor of a physician’s assistant would have more control over that assistant than McDonalds would have over a customer spilling coffee on himself. It could rightly argue that the assistant should be responsible for his own actions and that the supervisor should not be held liable for the irresponsible actions of that assistant. If that is the reasoning, why is it not applied to private companies? Are private companies to be held to a different standard when it comes to liability?