Healthcare Translation Services
and Medical Interpreting Services

Medical Malpractice in a Foreign Country: Personal Jurisdiction

We’ve blogged about professional onsite foreign language healthcare interpretation and medical translation services, as well as multilingual Colorado medical interpretation and translation for hospitals and clinics. As medical tourism continues to grow in popularity, the number of potential medical malpractice cases also continues to increase. One question that arises when malpractice occurs overseas is can a patient seek redress in a US court or must they bring their claims under the laws of the foreign jurisdiction?

The first obstacle in bringing a foreign medical malpractice case in the US courts is to establish personal jurisdiction. In general, this requires that the patient establish minimum contacts with the forum state via ‘purposeful contacts or through substantial and continuous connection’. Traditionally, courts have refused to assert jurisdiction over physicians who practice in another jurisdiction, particularly when he or she does not take any steps to promote their services within the given jurisdiction.

In cases of medical tourism, foreign providers of medical services often specifically target patients living in the US, thus potentially establishing minimum contacts via online marketing campaigns. Further, a patient could argue that a state’s long-arm statute applies as the foreign physician is soliciting business in the jurisdiction. However, courts have generally been reluctant to grant jurisdiction on this alone and required a showing that a signed contract between the foreign provider and a US referral source exists. Regardless of whether jurisdiction is established via ongoing internet contacts or a signed contract, whenever dealing with a foreign provider it is likely that foreign language translations of all contacts will be required to prove the nature of the contact.


Up Next: Medical Interpretation Law, and the Ethics of PHRs