Hospital Not Liable to Intoxicated Patient Hit by a Car After Leaving Without Being Discharged

An intoxicated patient came to a hospital voluntarily seeking entry into an alcohol detoxification program. The patient left the hospital several hours later without being formally discharged. Subsequently, while attempting to cross a street, the patient was hit by a car and injured. The patient sued the hospital and examining physician, alleging that they were negligent in not involuntarily detaining him.


The trial court denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, on the ground that triable issues of fact remained. The appellate court reversed and ordered the claims dismissed against the physician and hospital, holding that a patient who voluntarily seeks detoxification treatment cannot be detained involuntarily. Because the defendants had no authority to involuntarily detain the plaintiff, they could not be held responsible for the subsequently received injuries.


See: Kowalski v. St. Francis Hosp. and Health Centers, 2012 WL 1521782 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept. May 01, 2012) (not designated for publication).