Pa. Court Nixes Suit Against Doctor by Blackout Driver

By | September 21, 2005

A neurologist can’t be sued over a car crash in which his patient, who had a seizure disorder, blacked out and caused a car crash that killed a woman and her pregnant daughter, an appeals court ruled.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that Dr. Mark Hospodar couldn’t be held legally responsible because his patient, Jack Smith, was aware of the blackout condition and therefore responsible for his actions.

The 2-1 decision overruled Allegheny County Judge Alan Penkower, who refused a request by Hospodar’s attorney, James A. Wood, to dismiss the lawsuit against him more than two years ago.

Smith was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to three to six years in prison for the October 2000 crash that killed Patricia Schick, 54, and Sherri Zeis, 27, who was nine weeks pregnant with her first child. Smith had blacked out prior to the crash.

Robert Schick, Patricia Schick’s husband and Zeis’ father, sued Hospodar and his practice, Pittsburgh Neurology Associates, claiming the doctor didn’t properly treat Smith, who came to him after two prior accidents caused by blackouts.

The lawsuit alleged that Hospodar was responsible for the crash because he failed to tell Smith or the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that it wasn’t safe for him to drive.

But Hospodar testified at Smith’s criminal trial, and his attorney argued before the Superior Court in February, that Smith withheld key information from the doctor, including the fact that Smith believed he had a lifelong seizure disorder.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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