Heating Pad – Medical Malpractice Or Negligence?

You go to the doctor, or maybe a physical therapist, and they apply a heating pad for treatment. If you are burned by the heating pad was there medical malpractice or simple negligence? That was the issue last week in Morales v Carcione, 2008 NY Slip Op 01513 before the Second Department.

The plaintiff claimed that she sustained burns from heating pads applied to her legs by technicians at the defendant Central Westchester Neuromuscular Care, P.C. where she was receiving treatment for neuropathy and other neuromuscular ailments. The defendant moved to dismiss the action because it was not commenced within the two years and six months medical malpractice statute of limitations of CPLR 214-a.  The Supreme Court found that the plaintiff’s action was timely because it was commenced with the the three-year statute of limitations period applicable to actions to recover damages for personal injuries CPLR 214(5).

However, the Second Department reversed finding that the action sounded in medical malpractice, and thus, should have been dismissed as untimely. The Court explained:

Conduct may be deemed malpractice, rather than negligence, when it constitutes medical treatment or bears a substantial relationship to the rendition of medical treatment by a licensed physician. When the duty arises from the physician-patient relationship or is substantially related to medical treatment, the breach gives rise to an action sounding in medical malpractice, not simple negligence (citations and quotes omitted).

Here, the incident which resulted in the alleged injuries to the plaintiff arose out of the physician-patient relationship and was substantially related to the rendering of medical treatment to combat her neuropathy and other neuromuscular ailments. Accordingly * * *  as it sounds in medical malpractice, [the action] * * * is therefore subject to the limitations period of two years and six months.

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