Lawsuits are rare, but are nonetheless a part of providing health care and operating small businesses in Canada. If a midwife learns that they might be named in a lawsuit, they should immediately contact their insurer (HIROC for claims related to client care and their provider of clinic insurance for other claims). The insurer will pay for a lawyer except in the rare circumstances where the claim is outside of scope of coverage (e.g., human rights claims if the practice has not selected this additional coverage). Health-care providers working as employees (e.g., through an alternative practice arrangement) should also notify their employer who may also have applicable insurance.
Contractual or negligence claims are initiated through a Notice of Action and/or a Statement of Claim, which describe the nature of the claim, the injuries experienced, and the damages (money) sought. Claims in health care will typically name all members of the health care team, their employers (if any) and the organizations that they worked with. This may include nurses, physicians, midwives, ambulance attendants, students, employees, the hospital and the practice group.
Anyone named in a legal action, will be served with a Statement of Claim. Only the person whose name is on the envelope containing the Statement of Claim should accept it because timelines start from the moment the Statement of Claim is accepted. Anyone receiving a Statement of Claim should immediately contact their insurer.
Remember, being named in a lawsuit does not mean that the midwife is responsible or that there will be negative repercussions. While such cases will need to be reported at the time of renewal of College of Midwives of Ontario registration or hospital privileges it does not automatically result in disciplinary proceedings or loss of privileges.
For information on how Canadian courts assess such claims and the legal process, see these resources:
- HIROC Risk Note on Medical Malpractice
- Medico-legal handbook
- Professional liability e-learning (coming soon)
Midwives can also contact AOM On Call for information and support.