The Ohio Supreme Court issued its opinion this week in Theobald .v University of Cincinnati, granting blanket immunity from liability to physicians for their negligent acts when the medical malpractice occurs while the physician is teaching medical students or residents of a state medical school. It makes no difference whether the doctor is being paid privately or whether the doctor is acting outside of his official teaching capacity when the malpractice is committed. The bottom line is that the doctor may now be immune from suit and from accountability whenever a student is present during a medical procedure.
This decision overturns a prior ruling by the Ohio Court of Claims which had previously determined that doctors paid by private practice groups or who are acting outside of the scope of their employment when negligence occurs are not immune from liability for their negligent acts.
The effects of this decision will be chilling on patients injured by medical malpractice. Victims will now be forced to pursue the State of Ohio for damages rather than the negligent physicians effectively shifting the burden of malpractice from the physician and his insurance company on to taxpayers. Cases against the State must also be brought in the Court of Claims in Columbus rather than where the negligence occurred creating additional and unnecessary cost for patients. Finally, injured patients must forego their right to a jury trial when the Court of Claims hears the case.