Tennessee Supreme Court
854 S.W.2d 865 (1993)
Elmer Johns went to the emergency room complaining of headaches, muscle aches, fever, and chills. Johns was admitted to the hospital under the care of Dr. Chalmers Daniel, Jr. (defendant). Dr. Daniel prescribed Elmer a drug to combat the latter stages of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), a tickborne disease that can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early. Elmer’s condition deteriorated rapidly and he died the following day. Following an autopsy the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that Elmer’s death was caused by RMSF. Although Dr. Daniel had spoken to Elmer’s wife, Genevieve, during the course of her husband’s treatment, Dr. Daniel never advised her of the risks of exposure to RMSF nor informed her that the disease likely caused Elmer’s death. A week later, Genevieve went to emergency room at a different hospital complaining of similar symptoms—chills, fever, mental disorientation, and nausea, among others. Genevieve was admitted to the hospital for treatment, but died three days later. Genevieve’s son, William Bradshaw (plaintiff) filed suit against Dr. Daniel alleging that his negligence in failing to advise Genevieve of the risk of exposure to RMSF proximately caused her death. In depositions, two experts testified on behalf of Bradshaw that family members are at a greater risk of contracting RMSF due to living daily in close proximity to one another. The trial court denied Dr. Daniel’s motion for summary judgment, but granted an interlocutory appeal on the issue of a physician’s duty to warn a family member of a non-contagious disease. The court of appeals concluded that the facts were insufficient to show that the risk to Genevieve of contracting RMSF was such that a legal duty arose on the part of Dr. Daniel. Bradshaw appealed. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Anderson, J.)
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