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Warren v. Dinter

926 N.W.2d 370 (2019)

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Warren v. Dinter

Minnesota Supreme Court

926 N.W.2d 370 (2019)

Facts

On August 8, 2014, Susan Warren went to a medical clinic complaining of stomach pain, chills, and a fever. Sherry Simon, a nurse practitioner, ordered tests and learned that Susan had an abnormally high level of white blood cells. Simon believed that Susan needed to be hospitalized. Simon called Fairview Range Medical Center (Fairview) (defendant), a nearby hospital, seeking Susan’s admission. Per Fairview’s policy, one of its doctors had to approve the admission. Simon’s call was assigned to Dr. Richard Dinter (defendant). Simon described Susan’s symptoms and requested that Susan be admitted. Dinter told Simon that Susan’s symptoms were probably caused by diabetes and stated that Susan did not need to be hospitalized. Simon doubted Dinter’s diagnosis and met with Dr. Jan Baldwin, a doctor at the medical clinic, to see whether Baldwin could get Susan admitted. Baldwin agreed with Dinter that Susan’s symptoms could be caused by diabetes. Simon prescribed diabetes medication to Susan and sent her home. Three days later, Susan died from sepsis caused by an untreated infection. Justin Warren, Susan’s son, filed a medical-malpractice lawsuit in state court against Dinter and Fairview, alleging that Dinter negligently treated Susan by telling Simon that Susan did not need to be hospitalized. Dinter and Fairview filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that Dinter did not owe Susan a duty of care because she was not Dinter’s patient. The district court granted summary judgment for Dinter and Fairview, holding that Dinter’s statements to Simon were informal advice and did not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dinter and Susan. The court of appeals affirmed the district court. Justin appealed, arguing that a doctor may owe a person a duty of care even if no doctor-patient relationship existed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lillehaug, J.)

Dissent (Anderson, J.)

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