300 A.2d 563 (N.J. 1973), Lopez v. Swyer

Citation:300 A.2d 563, 62 N.J. 267
Opinion Judge:[10] Mountain
Party Name:Maria LOPEZ, a/k/a Mary and Mariantonia Lopez, and Frank Lopez, her husband, Plaintiffs-Respondents, v. Alfred J. SWYER, M.D., Defendant-Appellant, and Milton Danon, D.O., et al., Defendants-Respondents.
Attorney:[6] Mr. John J. Francis, Jr., argued the cause for defendant-appellant (Messrs. Shanley and Fisher, attorneys; Mr. Francis, of counsel; Mr. Joseph L. Cook, on the brief).
Case Date:February 20, 1973
Court:Supreme Court of New Jersey

Page 563

300 A.2d 563 (N.J. 1973)

62 N.J. 267

Maria LOPEZ, a/k/a Mary and Mariantonia Lopez, and Frank

Lopez, her husband, Plaintiffs-Respondents,


Alfred J. SWYER, M.D., Defendant-Appellant,


Milton Danon, D.O., et al., Defendants-Respondents.

Supreme Court of New Jersey.

February 20, 1973

Argued Oct. 10, 1972. [62 N.J. 269]

Page 564

John J. Francis, Jr., Newark, for defendant-appellant (Shanley & Fisher, Newark, attorneys; John J. Francis, Newark, of counsel; Joseph L. Cook, Newark, on the brief).

David A. Pressler, Ridgefield, for plaintiffs-respondents (Okin, Pressler & Shapiro, Ridgefield, attorneys; David A. Pressler, Ridgefield, of counsel; Sylvia B. Pressler, Ridgefield, on the brief).

John Robert Heher, Trenton, for New Jersey Hospital Assn. as amicus curiae (Smith, Stratton, Wise & Heher, Trenton, attorneys; John Robert Heher, Trenton, of counsel and on the brief). [62 N.J. 270]

The opinion of the Court was delivered by


Plaintiff, Maria Lopez, brought suit seeking damages for personal injuries allegedly attributable to the negligence and other tortious misconduct of four defendants, all of whom are physicians. The complaint charged medical malpractice, fraud and conspiracy. Her husband, Frank Lopez, joined as plaintiff, seeking damages Per quod.

All defendants moved for summary judgment. As to defendant, Swyer, the motion was granted; the motions of the other three defendants were denied. Plaintiffs and the unsuccessful defendants sought leave to appeal. The Appellate Division reserved decision on these motions, at the same time remanding the case to permit the taking of the depositions of all defendants--plaintiffs' depositions were already before the court--to be followed by reargument before the trial judge. At the

Page 565

reargument the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants. Upon plaintiffs' appeal, the Appellate Division reversed and remanded the suit for trial as to all parties. 115 N.J.Super. 237, 279 A.2d 116 (1971). Of the several defendants, Swyer alone sought certification, which we granted. 59 N.J. 361, 283 A.2d 105 (1971). Accordingly we deal only with the plaintiffs' claims against him; we do not pass upon any of the issues pertaining to the other three defendants.

The facts are set forth fully in the opinion of the Appellate Division, 115 N.J.Super. at 241--245, 279 A.2d 116, and will be only briefly restated here. 1 Following a radical mastectomy for breast cancer, performed by a surgeon who is not involved in this case, Mrs. Lopez's personal physician, the defendant Dr. Milton Danon, referred his patient to the defendant Dr. Alfred J. Swyer, a radiologist, for radiation therapy. The latter administered x-ray treatments daily except Sundays [62 N.J. 271] from January 8 to February 13, 1962. Mrs. Lopez's reaction to this course of therapy is described in detail in the opinion below, where it is fairly characterized as having been 'dramatically calamitous.' She suffered severe burns and was constantly plagued with pain and nausea. Necrotic ulcers appeared, requiring surgery. The burns produced suppuration from the surgical incision. She developed radiation fibrosis of the lung and suffered spontaneous rib fractures. Upon 15 separate occasions hospitalization was required. Following the radiation administered by Dr. Swyer, she was treated frequently and regularly until early 1966 by Dr. Danon and by his office associates, Dr. Osder and Dr. Stricker, who are also defendants. In 1966 the relationship ended and plaintiff sought medical assistance elsewhere. In March, 1967, while in a hospital for reconstructive surgery, Mrs. Lopez overheard a doctor who had been examining her say to some other doctors who were present, 'And there you see, gentlemen, what happens when the radiologist puts a patient on the table and goes out and has a cup of coffee.' This was, she says, her first intimation that Dr. Swyer had been negligent.

This suit was commenced September 18, 1967. Dr. Swyer is charged with having been negligent in administering radiation. Doctors Danon, Osder and Stricker are charged with negligence in that they gave bad advice, with having falsely reassured the plaintiffs and with having concealed knowledge, which it is alleged they possessed, of Dr. Swyer's alleged malpractice. It...

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