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A doctor’s indemnity to a medical center.

02/07/2013

The NSW Court of Appeal has clarified a doctor’s exposure to hospitals or medical centres which provide them with rooms, administrative services, equipment  and support staff.

The factual matrix was simple. A patient was screened for HIV but it did not give a clear result. The GP wrote to her, but the letter was mis-addressed.  Shortly after, another doctor at the same centre negligently told her that the result was clear.   Her partner contracted HIV after unprotected intercourse.  He sued both doctors and the medical centre.  After the claim was settled for $745,000, the doctors sought a contribution from the medical centre operator.

The contract contemplated that each party would carry their own risk.   The medical centre was not entitled to damages from the doctors, even if they had broken a promise to work carefully.  A clause requiring the doctors to protect  the centre against “any liability whatever arising from the Doctor rendering medical services pursuant to or in connection with this Deed or other acts or a failure to act on the part of the Doctor, whether of a medical service nature or otherwise” was directed to the acts or omissions of a medical nature by the doctors.  The clause did not protect the medical centre against the doctors’ claims about failures of administration.

The case shows that the words of an indemnity clause will need to be very clear if it is to cover a medical centre against negligent practice administration.   The case is Idameneo(No 123) Pty ltd  v Dr Colin Gross [2012] NSWCA 423.

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