Legal background

It is not at all unusual in a case such as this for there to be multiple defendants, as multiple clinicians were responsible for the patient’s care. In this case, the codefendants settled, leaving the plaintiff two choices: the plaintiff could continue the lawsuit against the party that did not settle (that is, Ms. N) or dismiss the case against her.

In this case, because the expert testified that Ms. N had not breached the standard of care owed to the patient, it would have been both pointless and expensive to continue the case only against Ms. N. However, be aware that in cases in which there is stronger evidence against the nonsettling party, the plaintiff may very well consider continuing with the lawsuit.

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Protecting yourself

Ms. N technically did not do anything wrong in this case, as the expert confirmed. She had noticed a medication order that seemed inappropriate, notified the nursing facility staff, and instructed them to clarify it before admitting the patient.

As the expert pointed out, Ms. N could have contacted the hospital pharmacist directly to question the morphine dosage. She also could have discussed the medication orders with the patient’s physician. She could have documented her concerns in writing and shared the documentation with not just the nursing facility and the pharmacist, but with the patient’s other practitioners. 

Almost always, more can, and should, be done to protect the patient. However, in this case, what Ms. N did was adequate to protect herself from liability.