Picture of John Day

§47.31A Physician Assistant Negligence - Proof of Standard of Care

The Case:  Cox v. M.A. Primary and Urgent Care Clinic, 313 S.W.3d 240 (Tenn.2010).

The Basic Facts:  Plaintiff alleged that she was injured as a result of the negligence of a physician’s assistant.  She sought to use a doctor to testify as to the standard of care of the physician’s assistant.

The Bottom Line:

 

·      “We turn now to the central issue in this case: the standard of care applicable to physician assistants. Plaintiff argues in her brief to this Court that the Act establishes that a physician assistant is ‘actually practicing medicine on behalf of the supervising doctor’ and ‘as the doctor’s representative.’ Given that a physician assistant is practicing medicine, Plaintiff asserts, he or she must be held to the same standard of care applied to his or her supervising physician. This is an issue of first impression in Tennessee.” 313 S.W.3d at 255.

 

·       “Our close review of Tennessee’s statutes, which are similar to those of Delaware, convinces us that the General Assembly did not intend that physician assistants be held to the same standard of care as physicians when administering medical care. Rather, a fair reading of the Act, and the Rules promulgated thereunder, establishes that a Tennessee physician assistant is a medical provider who practices medicine within a specifically circumscribed scope of practice, under the close supervision of a medical doctor, and pursuant to a specific protocol developed with the supervising medical doctor. And, although we recognize that physician assistants exercise a degree of independent judgment in providing medical services, the Act makes clear that physician assistants do not have the same autonomy that is accorded to doctors. Physician assistants are statutorily limited to performing ‘only those tasks that are within the physician assistant’s range of skill and competence.’ Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-19-106(a)(3). Moreover, physician assistants are exposed to disciplinary action for practicing medicine without a license if they render professional services in a manner inconsistent with the Act. Id. § 63-19-108. It is logically inconsistent to impose significant limitations on physician assistants and yet simultaneously hold them to the same standard of care imposed upon their supervisors.”  Id. at 257 (footnote omitted).

 

·      “We hold that a physician assistant must be held to the ‘recognized standard of acceptable professional practice in the profession’ of physician assistants and any specialty thereof, and not to a standard applied to physicians. This is consistent with Tennessee’s longstanding recognition that, in a professional malpractice action, the defendant ‘is responsible for any damage which may result to those who employ him from the want of the necessary and proper knowledge, skill, and science which such profession demands.’ Wood v. Clapp, 36 Tenn. (4 Sneed) 65, 66 (1856) (emphasis added). Thus, ‘[p]rofessionals are judged according to the standard of care required by their [own] profession.  Dooley v. Everett, 805 S.W.2d 380, 384-85 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1990) (emphasis added); see also Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 299A (1965) (‘Unless he represents that he has a greater or less skill or knowledge, one who undertakes to render services in the practice of a profession or trade is required to exercise the skill and knowledge normally possessed by members of that profession or trade in good standing in similar communities.’). The profession of physician assistants is distinct from the profession of physicians. Therefore, in order to establish that a physician assistant has committed medical malpractice, the plaintiff must adduce testimony by an expert who is qualified to testify about (1) the standard of care applicable to physician assistants and (2) whether the physician assistant in question exercised ‘the reasonable degree of learning, skill, and experience that is ordinarily possessed by others of his profession.’Godbee v. Dimick, 213 S.W.3d 865, 896 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006) (quoting Hopper v. Tabor, No. 03A01-9801-CV00049, 1998 WL 498211, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 19, 1998)).” Id. at 258-59.

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call us at 615-742-4880 or toll-free at 866-812-8787.



The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

Client Reviews
Everything was great. You guys are a great representative. I was satisfied with everything. Truly appreciate John Day and his hard-working staff.
★★★★★
We thought that you did an excellent job in representing us in our lawsuit. We would recommend you to anyone. Mitch Deese
★★★★★
The Law Offices of John Day is, without a doubt, the best in Nashville! They treated me with the utmost respect and tended to my every need. No question went unanswered. I was always kept informed of every step in the process. I received phenomenal results; I couldn't ask for more. I would definitely hire the Law Offices of John Day again. Anthony Santiago
★★★★★
I would definitely recommend to anyone to hire John Day's law firm because everyone was helpful, made everything clear and got the job done. I am satisfied with how my case was handled. June Keomahavong
★★★★★
It's been a long battle but this firm has been very efficient and has done a remarkable job for me! I highly recommend them to anyone needing legal assistance. Everyone has always been very kind and kept me informed of all actions promptly. Linda Bush
★★★★★
I had a great experience with the Law Offices of John Day. The staff was very accommodating, and my phone calls/emails were always responded to in a timely manner. They made the entire process very easy and stress-free for me, and I had confidence that my case was in good hands. I am very happy with the results, and I highly recommend! Casey Hutchinson
★★★★★