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Home / Blog / 3rd Party Liability in Medical Negligence Cases

When people hear the word “lawsuit,” typically they think of one plaintiff suing a single defendant. In reality, many lawsuits involve multiple defendants. Some lawsuits also involve multiple plaintiffs. In some cases, defendants have claims against one or more third parties who are not yet a part of the lawsuit. In order to file a lawsuit against the third-party yet unnamed in the original lawsuit, the current defendant looking to add a third party into the case must file a third-party complaint and file lawsuit against the party or parties as third-party defendants.

In some cases, third-party defendants are brought into the original lawsuit. Third-party lawsuits can involve various causes of action, including indemnification and contribution.

  • The most common third-party claim is indemnification. This occurs when one party defends the indemnified party and pays the costs of attorney’s fees and/or judgments they may be paying for litigation.
  • This claim occurs when a defendant is looking to hold another negligent party liable or part of the judgment they may be responsible for paying resulting from the litigation. When multiple negligent parties are sued, which often happens, the defendants can assert claims against each other for contribution.

The recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling

In March, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in a medical malpractice lawsuit that if third-party defendant in the case that was facing common-law indemnification and contribution claims from the defendant – even though that third party lacked affidavit of merit – was required to participate in the trial.

The ruling of the court in the case was unanimous. The case involved plaintiff Samuel Mejia and his lawsuit against Quest Diagnostics and Dr. Simon Santos, claiming they failed to diagnose the cervical cancer his late wife, Tania, had at the time. Quest Diagnostics also filed a third-party lawsuit against Dr. Jacinto Fernandez – Tania’s doctor – a claim for indemnification and contribution.

Fernandez made the argument that since he had never received an affidavit of merit and was not sued by the plaintiff, he should have been excluded from the litigation. He cited the opinion of Supreme Court Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina in Burt v. West Jersey Health Systems – a similar case in which defendants were denied because of the failure to serve an affidavit on time.

However, the judge noted that the defendants in the Burt v. West case were dismissed meritoriously. He also noted that Fernandez did not offer a meritorious right to dismissal and bus must be considered an active third-party defendant, required to participate in the trial.

If you have sustained an injury resulting from medical malpractice in a hospital or other medical facility, the medical malpractice attorneys at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP are committed to helping you recover any and all compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses. To arrange a free consultation about your case, give us a call today at 732.777.0100 or complete the contact form. From our offices in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River, we are here to serve you.