South Carolina's Flagship University

4th Circuit Court Briefs

Clemente v. Roth (05-1477)

Joseph Clemente brought suit on behalf of his deceased wife, Paige Denise Prentice, against John Roth, representative of the estate of Dr. Charles Cardany, and the United States of America. The suit alleges medical negligence based on Dr. Cardany's initiation of a sexual relationship with Ms. Prentice while she was his patient. Because Dr. Cardany provided services on a contract basis to the National Cancer Institute of the National Institution of Health ("NIH"), Mr. Clemente also alleges that NIH was negligent in credentialing Dr. Cardany as a contract physician.

Ms. Prentice was diagnosed with advanced bilateral breast cancer in February 1997. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy at NIH and opted to undergo this procedure with immediate reconstruction, which was performed by Dr. Cardany. Dr. Cardany was assisted by Dr. Danforth during the surgical procedure. Mr. Clemente alleges that while Ms. Prentice was Dr. Cardany's patient, he initiated a sexual relationship with her. During one of Ms. Prentice's visits with Dr. Danforth in NIH's outpatient clinic, she told him about her sexual relationship with Dr. Cardany and later faxed him a letter summarizing what she told him in his office.

Prior to trial, the district court granted the United States' motion for summary judgment, finding that Mr. Clemente had not shown that the NIH was negligent in credentialing Dr. Cardany. On appeal, Mr. Clemente argues that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the United States. Mr. Clemente maintains that NIH improperly credentialed Dr. Cardany to work at NIH, thereby making the United States liable for Ms. Prentice's injuries. The United States argues that there is no cause of action under Maryland law for negligent credentialing and that, even if NIH violated its duty to properly investigate and credential Dr. Cardany, the evidence was insufficient to establish that deficiencies in the credentialing process were the proximate cause of Ms. Prentice's injuries.

Prior to trial, Mr. Roth successfully moved to exclude the letter from Ms. Prentice to Dr. Danforth. The district court found that this letter was hearsay not falling within the exceptions for business records or statements made for purposes of medical treatment or diagnosis. On appeal, Mr. Clemente argues that the district court erred in excluding this letter.

After a bench trial on Mr. Clemente's claim of medical negligence based on sexual misconduct, the district court held as a matter of law that these facts could not support such a claim under Maryland law. On appeal, Mr. Clemente argues that, because of the fiduciary relationship between a physician and patient, Dr. Cardany's instigation of a sexual relationship with Ms. Prentice is actionable under Maryland law.