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Adult with Physical, Cognitive Disabilities under Guardianship Lacked Standing to Sue


An adult woman who had physical and cognitive disabilities and whose parents had been appointed co-guardians underwent gallbladder surgery. The surgeon allegedly made an error that injured the woman.

 

The woman brought a medical malpractice action in her own name against the surgeon and her employer. The complaint alleged that the surgeon’s negligence caused her injury. The complaint was filed in the woman’s own name and without indication that she was under a guardianship.

 

The Fairfax County Circuit Court dismissed the claim. The trial court concluded that the woman was under a guardianship and did not have standing to file a lawsuit in her own name.

 

The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed. The court held that the woman’s parents were her full guardians such that she lacked standing to bring a medical malpractice action in her own name.

 

The woman’s parents were her full guardians such that the woman lacked standing to bring a medical malpractice action in her own name. The guardianship order noted the woman’s incapacity and gave her parents authority in each area listed in the statutory definition of guardian. The guardianship order also did not specify any limitations on the parents’ guardianship, effectively granting them all of the authority that a court could vest in a guardian. The court held that the trial court did not err in dismissing the suit on the basis that the woman filed the lawsuit in her own name although co-guardians responsible for her personal affairs had been appointed.

 

The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the woman’s medical malpractice claim.

 

See: Lopez-Rosario v. Habib, 2016 WL 1458940 (Va., April 14, 2016) (not designated for publication). 

 

See also Medical Law Perspectives, April 2016 Report: A Spectrum of Risks Related to Autism: Liability Issues and Litigation

 

 

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