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Doctor sued in dementia patient's crash is found not liable

September 6, 2012 |  2:14 pm

Family loses suit against doctor

An Orange County jury found Thursday that the doctor of a dementia patient bore no responsibility for a car crash the 85-year-old woman caused that killed her longtime partner.

The family of William Powers, who died after the 2010 accident, had sued Dr. Arthur Daigneault for wrongful death, saying the physician should have taken steps to have Lorraine Sullivan's driver's license revoked.

The case highlighted a problem that will grow more common as the population ages and doctors see more dementia and other conditions related to old age.

California law requires doctors to notify authorities if they believe a patient has a disorder characterized by “lapses of consciousness.” In the early stages of dementia, a person may pose little extra risk on the road. A doctor must decide whether a case merits reporting.

In this instance, a jury found Daigneault did not violate the standard of care when he deemed Sullivan still fit to drive.

His lawyer argued that there was no evidence that Sullivan's dementia contributed to the accident or that the state Department of Motor Vehicles would have revoked her license if Daigneault had reported her.

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--Jessica Garrison and Alan Zarembo

Photo: Craig Powers, 55, and his sister, Andrea Wooldridge, 53, sued the doctor of a dementia patient whose car crash killed their father, William Powers. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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