Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

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In the medical malpractice case concerning the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from Lillian Birt, her daughter Jenafer Meeks sued the treating doctors, Wei Peng and Christina G. Richards, both individually and on behalf of Ms. Birt's heirs and estate. The children of Ms. Birt had decided to discontinue her life support based on the misinformation they received from the doctors about her condition. The doctors inaccurately portrayed her condition as terminal, leading the children to believe that the treatment was only prolonging her life unnaturally. However, Ms. Birt's condition was not terminal, and there was a high probability of her recovery if the treatment had continued.In the Supreme Court of the State of Utah, the doctors appealed on two issues. Firstly, they argued that the trial court's jury instruction 23 was incorrect as it did not explicitly state that Ms. Meeks had the burden to prove the standard of care. Secondly, they contended that the lower court erred in denying their motion for judgment as a matter of law on the survival claim due to lack of evidence that Ms. Birt experienced pain and suffering in the hours between the doctors' negligence and her death.The Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly instructed the jury that Ms. Meeks had the burden to prove the standard of care, as the instruction implicitly required the jury to determine the standard of care as part of proving a breach of it. However, the Supreme Court agreed with the doctors that Ms. Meeks failed to provide evidence of Ms. Birt's experience of pain, suffering, or inconvenience during the period between the doctors' negligence and her death. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the lower court. View "Peng v. Meeks" on Justia Law

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In 2019, Keith McWhorter and his wife, Carol, filed a lawsuit against Baptist Healthcare System, Inc., alleging medical negligence and loss of consortium. The defendant argued that the plaintiffs failed to file a certificate of merit as required by Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 411.167, a law enacted to reduce meritless lawsuits against medical providers. The trial court dismissed the case with prejudice due to this omission. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing they had complied with the requirements of KRS 411.167(7) and that the defendant had waived the certificate of merit argument by not including it in their initial answer. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's dismissal.Upon review, the Supreme Court of Kentucky held that none of the issues the plaintiffs raised were properly preserved for appellate review, as they did not call these errors to the attention of the trial court. However, the court did note that had the claim of compliance under KRS 411.167(7) been properly before the court, they would have held that a plaintiff must file this information with the complaint. As a result, the Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision, dismissing the case with prejudice. View "MCWHORTER V. BAPTIST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM, INC." on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice case, the Supreme Court of Kentucky analyzed KRS 411.167, a law requiring claimants to file a certificate of merit alongside their complaint. The plaintiff, Mario Sanchez, had filed a suit against doctors and the medical facility, but without a certificate of merit. The trial court dismissed the case because Sanchez failed to comply with KRS 411.167. Sanchez appealed, arguing that the certificate requirement only applied to parties representing themselves, and that his responses to the defendant's discovery requests effectively complied with the statute. The Court of Appeals disagreed with Sanchez's interpretation but remanded the case back to the trial court to determine if Sanchez's failure to file a certificate of merit was due to excusable neglect under CR 6.02.The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed that KRS 411.167 applies to all claimants, whether represented by counsel or not, and rejected Sanchez's argument that he technically and substantively complied with the statute. The court ruled that strict compliance with the statute was required, rendering the statute effectively meaningless if only substantial compliance was necessary. The court reversed the Court of Appeals' decision to remand the case back to the trial court, stating that Sanchez's failure to adequately request relief under CR 6.02 at the trial court level should not benefit him now. The Supreme Court upheld the trial court's decision to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice due to Sanchez's failure to file a certificate of merit. View "MCMILLIN, M.D. V. SANCHEZ" on Justia Law

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In Iowa, a ten-year-old boy was treated at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) for a dislodged feeding tube and died the next day. The boy's mother filed administrative tort claims on behalf of the child's estate prior to being appointed as the estate's administrator. The child's parents also individually claimed loss of consortium. The claims were dismissed by the district court, which ruled that the mother lacked authority to file a claim on behalf of the estate prior to her official appointment, and that the parents had not properly filed individual administrative tort claims.The Supreme Court of Iowa held that the district court was correct to dismiss the parents' individual claims as no individual administrative tort claims were filed. However, the court determined the district court had erred in dismissing the estate's claims, arguing that the mother's administrative tort claims were valid despite her not being appointed as the estate's administrator at the time of filing. The court explained that a representative may act to protect an estate's interests before being officially appointed and can ratify pre-appointment acts, granting them the same effect as acts that would occur after appointment. The court also confirmed that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to permit the plaintiffs' new evidence. The case was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Anderson v. State of Iowa" on Justia Law

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In this case, Charlene and Michael Jorgensen sued Dr. Adam Smith, his professional corporation (Adam Smith, M.D., P.C.), and Tri-State Specialists, L.L.P., a clinic that employed Dr. Smith, after Charlene underwent surgeries in 2016 and 2018 that they allege were botched by Dr. Smith. They specifically claim that Tri-State was negligent in retaining Dr. Smith despite knowledge of his unfitness to practice surgery. The Supreme Court of Iowa considered whether the Jorgensens were required to produce a "certificate of merit affidavit" containing an expert’s opinion that the clinic had breached the applicable standard of care by retaining Dr. Smith, under Iowa Code section 147.140 (2018). The court found that this requirement did not apply to the Jorgensens' claim of negligent retention. While Tri-State is considered a "health care provider" as per the definition in the Iowa Code, the language of the statute requiring a certificate of merit refers to negligence in the practice of a profession, occupation, or in patient care. The court concluded that in the context of section 147.140, the term "occupation" does not encompass the activities of entities such as Tri-State. Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court's decision denying Tri-State's motion for summary judgment. View "Jorgensen v. Smith" on Justia Law

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A case in Connecticut involved a couple, Aaron Lynch and Jean-Marie Monroe-Lynch, who sought damages for alleged medical malpractice by the state of Connecticut in relation to therapeutic donor insemination (TDI) services and prenatal care provided at a state hospital. The couple were unable to conceive without medical assistance and pursued TDI services. The hospital staff failed to adhere to guidelines regarding the use of cytomegalovirus (CMV) positive donor sperm for CMV negative patients, leading to Jean-Marie being inseminated with CMV positive donor sperm. Jean-Marie later became pregnant with twins. During her pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed conditions associated with an in utero CMV infection, however, the hospital staff failed to inform Jean-Marie or take appropriate follow-up action. One of the twins died in utero from a severe CMV infection and the other was born with severe, lifelong medical conditions as a result of congenital CMV.The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the state could not claim sovereign immunity as the plaintiffs' fertility treatment claims were medical malpractice claims, not informed consent claims. The court also held that the plaintiffs' son, who was born with severe medical conditions as a result of the state's negligence, was entitled to compensation. The court found no merit in the state's claim that the damages awarded were speculative or predicated on the concept that nonexistence can be preferable to impaired existence. The court concluded that common-law negligence principles were adaptable to provide a remedy for injuries such as those sustained by the plaintiffs' son. This decision affirms the trial court's award of over $34 million in damages to the plaintiffs. View "Lynch v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed the judgment of the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Washington County, in a medical malpractice action brought by Vivian Nipper against Dr. Lore Wootton, M.D., Dr. Robert Mairs, D.O., and the Weiser Memorial Hospital District. Nipper alleged that she was injured during the delivery of her child via a cesarean section when Dr. Wootton negligently cut her bladder, causing significant damage. Dr. Mairs was called to assist in repairing the injury, but Nipper alleged his efforts also fell below the standard of care.After a significant period of discovery, both Dr. Wootton and Dr. Mairs moved for summary judgment on the claims asserted against them. In response to each motion, Nipper moved for Rule 56(d) relief, requesting additional time to respond. The district court denied both requests for Rule 56(d) relief and granted summary judgment in favor of Dr. Wootton and Dr. Mairs.The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denials of Rule 56(d) relief and subsequent grants of summary judgment. The Court found that Nipper failed to provide specific reasons why she could not present essential facts to oppose the summary judgment motion within the allotted timeframes. Further, the Court concluded that Nipper failed to set forth a satisfactory explanation for why, after two years, such essential evidence was not sought earlier. View "Nipper V. Wootton" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Dane Templeton suffered an injury to his right knee and thigh after being thrown from a golf cart. Dr. Charles Orth operated on Templeton’s injured leg and provided follow-up care for several months. In 2015, Templeton returned to Dr. Orth due to swelling in his knee, prompting another surgery and more follow-up care that lasted until August 2016. However, Templeton decided to seek a second opinion from Dr. Michael Tilley in September 2016. After receiving an alternative treatment plan from Dr. Tilley, Templeton decided to follow this new plan and stopped taking the antibiotics prescribed by Dr. Orth. On October 9, 2018, Templeton filed a lawsuit against Dr. Orth for medical malpractice, alleging negligence in his treatment.Dr. Orth sought summary judgment, arguing that the lawsuit was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. According to Dr. Orth, Templeton ended the physician-patient relationship when he sought treatment from Dr. Tilley without following up with Dr. Orth. The circuit court agreed with Dr. Orth, concluding that the lawsuit was indeed barred by the statute of limitations. Templeton appealed this decision, arguing that the continuing care doctrine should have tolled the statute of limitations.The Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed the circuit court's judgment. The Supreme Court determined that Templeton had actively ended the continuing care relationship with Dr. Orth when he chose to follow Dr. Tilley's treatment plan and stopped taking the antibiotics prescribed by Dr. Orth. As such, Templeton's lawsuit, filed more than two years after ending the physician-patient relationship, was barred by the statute of limitations. The Court clarified that the continuing care doctrine did not apply because the relationship had ended before the necessity for treatment had ceased. View "Templeton vs. Orth" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Virginia Cora Ward, the administratrix of the estate of Edmund Edward Ward, appealed against the verdict in favor of Dr. Ernst J. Schaefer. Edmund Edward Ward, who suffered from a rare genetic deficiency that caused his body to refrain from producing a critical blood enzyme, was a subject of experimental enzyme therapy developed by Dr. Schaefer and others. The plaintiff claimed that Dr. Schaefer fraudulently induced Ward to participate in the experimental protocol and failed to obtain informed consent for his participation. However, the jury disagreed and returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Schaefer.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the lower court. The appellate court found that the district court did not err in excluding the patent for the experimental drug from evidence, as its probative value was substantially outweighed by the potential for confusion. Further, the court found no error in the jury instructions provided by the district court regarding the nature of the doctor-patient relationship and the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. The court concluded that the jury instructions sufficiently conveyed the legal standards to be applied, and the plaintiff failed to show that the occurrence of a medical condition during the experimental protocol implied that the protocol caused the condition. View "Ward v. Schaefer" on Justia Law

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Edward Zaragoza, an inmate suffering from hypothyroidism, filed a lawsuit against three prison physicians and their employer. Zaragoza claimed that the doctors' treatment decisions, specifically their refusal to provide alternative medication despite the severe side effects he experienced from the prescribed medication, amounted to medical malpractice and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The Indiana Supreme Court found that Zaragoza's expert's affidavit, which challenged the doctors' treatment decisions, was both admissible and substantively sufficient to create an issue of fact in the malpractice case. The court also found that there were disputes over whether the doctors knowingly failed to offer Zaragoza a potentially safer alternative medication. Thus, the court ruled that summary judgment was not warranted and reversed the trial court's decision, allowing Zaragoza's claims to proceed to trial. The court emphasized that summary judgment is not a summary trial and that genuine issues of material fact remained to be determined by a factfinder after a trial. View "Zaragoza v. Wexford of Indiana, LLC" on Justia Law