On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Bergen County.
Dreier, Ashbey and Landau. The opinion of the court was delivered by Ashbey, J.A.D.
In this medical malpractice case, plaintiff*fn1 appeals by leave granted from a partial summary judgment in favor of Englewood Hospital, Robert H. Glick, M.D., and Anthony Prezioso, M.D.*fn2 dismissing plaintiff's punitive damages claim.
Taking all factual disputes as resolved in plaintiff's favor, plaintiff, while expecting the birth of her third child, received prenatal care from defendant Glick's medical group, Gynecological and Obstetrical Services of Englewood. In connection with that care, plaintiff planned to have tubal ligation surgery following the delivery. She signed a surgical consent form in advance in Glick's office which said:
I authorize Dr. Glick and whomever he/she may designate as assistant or associate to perform the following procedure(s): Obstetrical Management (Labor & Delivery), Episiotomy and repair, Fetal monitoring, Caesarean Section if necessary.
At the side of this form was written in hand "and postpartum tubal ligation." That modification was also signed by plaintiff.
Plaintiff was admitted to Englewood Hospital, while in labor, early in the morning on January 16, 1987. There she signed
another consent form regarding the tubal ligation surgery. This form read,
I authorize Dr. Glick and whomever he/she may designate as assistant or associate to perform the following procedure(s): Post Partum Bilateral Tubal Ligation.
Plaintiff's signature was witnessed by a nurse, and Glick's signature and certification were attached the following day.*fn3 In her claim plaintiff said (and it appears undisputed) that Glick arrived at Englewood Hospital at 10:00 a.m. that day, accompanied by his 5-year old grandson. Glick introduced the child to plaintiff and then told the child to wait outside in the nurses' lounge. Just prior to the operation, Glick summoned the hospital surgical resident, Dr. Prezioso, and at 10:40 a.m., either in the operating room or in the hall outside, he introduced the resident to plaintiff as his assistant. Glick admitted not telling plaintiff what was meant by that term.
During the operation plaintiff's bowel was perforated. Repair was performed by a general surgeon who was summoned to the operating room. While recovering from the tubal ligation, plaintiff allegedly suffered adverse consequences, forming the basis for her compensatory claim which is still pending. This appeal turns on the legal significance of the roles played by Glick and Prezioso, the two operating doctors.
At her deposition, one of the nurses said that the first incision in the operation was made by Prezioso, and that shortly after that, it was Prezioso who perforated the bowel. Glick said that he performed the first incision. There was no ...