Ark. SC: Cause of action for negligent credentialing doesn't exist

Jessica M. Karmasek Feb. 14, 2012, 5:00pm


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) - The Arkansas Supreme Court last week affirmed a ruling in favor of hospital in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The Court filed its 16-page opinion Thursday in favor of appellees QHG of Springdale Inc., d/b/a Northwest Medical Center, and Northwest Arkansas Hospitals LLC, d/b/a Northwest Medical Center, collectively referred to as NMC.

Appellants Theresa Paulino and her husband, Eddie, accused the hospital of negligently credentialing and retaining one of its doctors, Dr. Cyril Raben.

Paulino, after a series of spinal surgeries performed by Raben, remained unable to walk.

The Washington County Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of NMC.

Specifically, the circuit court found that, as a matter of law, the state's Medical Malpractice Act did not confer a cause of action for negligent credentialing.

The court also found that it was the job of a hospital's peer review committee to determine whether doctors have complied with the standard of care and questioned how a jury could make an intelligent decision about a hospital's credentialing decisions when the state's Peer Review Statute provides a hospital with a "privilege" for those decisions.

Accordingly, the court concluded that a cause of action for negligent credentialing does not exist in Arkansas.

Paulino appealed.

Justice Robert L. Brown authored the state high court's opinion.

"In the case at hand, the decision to credential Dr. Raben was not, at its genesis, a decision to pursue a method of treatment, care, or course of medical action relating to a specific patient," he wrote for the Court.

"Because of this, we hold that the circuit court did not err in determining that the Medical Malpractice Act does not confer a cause of action for negligent credentialing as a 'medical injury' due to the fact that credentialing decisions do not involve a professional service, doctor's treatment or order, or a matter of medical science related to specific patient care."

Still, the question remains whether Arkansas should recognize negligent credentialing as a "new brand" of negligence under the state's common law, Brown said.

"This court historically treads cautiously when deciding whether to recognize a new tort. We have said that we are especially averse to creating a new tort that would only lead to duplicative litigation and encourage inefficient relitigation of issues better handled within the context of the core cause of action," the justice wrote.

The Court said it doesn't find it necessary to create a new tort in order to provide a party with another remedy against a hospital, premised on doctor credentialing.

"A statutory system is in place for the initial and ongoing review of competency as part of the credentialing process to assure that health services are being performed in accordance with the appropriate standard of care," Brown wrote.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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Arkansas Supreme Court
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Little Rock, AR 72201

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