Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

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Sarah DeMichele, M.D., was a board-certified psychiatrist licensed to practice medicine in Pennsylvania. From August 2011 through February 2013, Dr. DeMichele provided psychiatric care to M.R. M.R. struggled with suicidal ideations and engaged in a pattern of self-harming behavior, which she discussed regularly with Dr. DeMichele. In December 2012, M.R.’s self-inflicted injuries necessitated emergency medical treatment. M.R. ultimately was transferred to a Trauma Disorders Program in Maryland. In the program, M.R. was treated by psychiatrist Richard Loewenstein, M.D., and psychologist Catherine Fine, Ph.D. During the course of his treatment of M.R., Dr. Loewenstein obtained M.R.’s medical records from Dr. DeMichele. In 2014, Dr. Loewenstein submitted a complaint to the Professional Compliance Office of Pennsylvania’s State Board of Medicine (“Board”), in which he alleged that Dr. DeMichele’s care of M.R. was professionally deficient. Dr. Loewenstein’s complaint prompted an investigation and, ultimately, the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against Dr. DeMichele. In 2015, the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (“Bureau”) filed an order directing Dr. DeMichele to show cause as to why the Board should not suspend, revoke, or restrict her medical license, or impose a civil penalty or the costs of investigation. In advance of the hearing, Dr. DeMichele requested that the hearing examiner issue subpoenas for the testimony of M.R. and the medical records of Dr. Loewenstein, Dr. Fine, the program, and M.R.’s former treating psychologist, April Westfall, Ph.D. Relying upon the authority provided under 63 P.S. 2203(c), the hearing examiner issued the requested subpoenas. However, when served with the subpoenas, all of M.R.’s treatment providers refused to release their records absent a court order or M.R.’s authorization. M.R. subsequently refused to authorize the release of her records. In this direct appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was asked to consider the enforceability of the subpoenas, as well as related questions regarding the scope and applicability of numerous statutes that protect a patient’s medical information. The Commonwealth Court granted the physician’s petition to enforce the subpoenas. Because the Supreme Court concluded the Commonwealth Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide the issue, it vacated that court’s order. View "In Re: Enforcement of Subpoenas b/f the Bd of Med." on Justia Law

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In this medical negligence action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment against Plaintiffs following a jury verdict in favor of Defendants, holding that the circuit court did not commit reversible error when it refused to allow Plaintiffs' counsel additional voir dire time so he could ask the "insurance question" after counsel forgot to ask it during his initial voir dire. In Ivy v. Hawk, 878 S.W.2d 442 (Mo. banc 1994), the Court held that a party has the right to ask the insurance question during voir dire if the proper procedure is used so as to avoid unduly highlighting the question. The Supreme Court noted, however, that Ivy did not divest the circuit court of its discretion to control the proper form and timing of voir dire questioning, including discretion as to whether counsel's proposed procedure would unduly highlight the question. The Court then affirmed, holding that because Plaintiffs' counsel forgot to ask the insurance question during multiple hours of voir dire, the court acted within its discretion in finding it would unduly highlight the question to allow counsel to recommence his questioning to ask the insurance question after voir dire had otherwise concluded. View "Eoff v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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Teresa Banowsky filed a claim for medical malpractice in Washington district court on the last day of the statute of limitations, seeking over $100,000. District courts could exercise jurisdiction over medical malpractice claims, but not over claims seeking over $100,000. CRLH 14A(b) directs district courts to remove or transfer cases to superior court when any party asserts a claim in excess of the district court’s jurisdiction, or seeks a remedy beyond the court’s jurisdiction. The Washington Supreme Court held CRLJ 14A(b) validly and unambiguously required the district court to transfer Banowsky’s case to superior court. View "Banowsky v. Backstrom" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's grant of Defendants' motion to dismiss this medical malpractice action pursuant to Utah Code 78B-3-423(7) of the Utah Health Care Malpractice Act because Plaintiff failed to obtain a certificate of compliance from the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL), holding that the Malpractice Act violates Utah Const. art. VIII, I - the judicial power provision - by allowing DOPL to exercise the core judicial function of ordering the final disposition of claims like those brought by Plaintiff in this case without judicial review. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants without the certificate of compliance. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice citing Utah Code 78B-3-423(7) of the Malpractice Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the 2010 amendments to the Malpractice Act empower DOPL to hear and dispose of medical malpractice claims on a final non-appealable basis in violation of Article VIII; and (2) therefore, sections 78B-3-412(1)(b) and Utah Code 78B-3-423 are facially unconstitutional. View "Vega v. Jordan Valley Medical Center, LP" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff's complaint alleging medical malpractice and negligence against a hospital and several other healthcare providers, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding an expert witness as a sanction for Plaintiff's noncompliance with a scheduling order. After Defendants answered the complaint the district court entered a scheduling order setting a deadline for the disclosure of Plaintiff's expert reports. More than a year after the deadline the district court had set for the disclosure of Plaintiff's experts' reports, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's potential expert witness. The district court granted the motion to exclude. Thereafter, the court granted summary judgment for Defendants on the ground that Plaintiff could not prevail without admissible expert testimony. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the court below did not abuse its discretion in excluding the potential expert witness as an expert witness. View "Gonzalez-Rivera v. Centro Medico del Turabo, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case alleging negligence against a physician, the Supreme Court recognized a third-party cause of action for negligent misreporting of sexually transmitted disease (STD) test results, holding that a physician who mistakenly informs a patient that he does not have an STD may be held liable in ordinary negligence to the patient's exclusive sexual partner for her resulting injuries when the physician knows that the patient sought testing and treatment for the express benefit of that partner. Plaintiff sued Defendant, a physician, alleging that Defendant had been negligent by misreporting the STD test results of her sexual partner. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to strike, concluding that Defendant did not owe a duty of care to Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant owed a duty of care to Plaintiff, even though she was not his patient. View "Doe v. Cochran" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that her baby's brain damage was caused by a doctor's medical malpractice. The district court agreed and awarded defendant over $7 million dollars in damages. The Fourth Circuit reversed and held that the district court clearly erred by finding that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to establish that the doctor violated the applicable standard of care. In this case, the district court's finding on breach was not supported by plaintiff's own expert testimony. Therefore, the district court erred in finding that the doctor was liable for malpractice. View "Butts v. United States" on Justia Law

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Kelly McCarthy appealed after a district court dismissed her complaint against Dr. Ariane Getz with prejudice. On September 23, 2015, McCarthy’s daughter died by suicide. Prior to her death, McCarthy’s daughter received psychological counseling from Dr. Getz for several months for symptoms relating to anxiety and depression. McCarthy’s daughter had ten total visits with Dr. Getz, occurring roughly once to twice a month. McCarthy’s daughter was a minor when she was first seen by Dr. Getz, but turned 18 prior to her death. During the course of her visits with Dr. Getz, McCarthy’s daughter expressed self-injurious behavior, anxiety, depression, passive thoughts about suicide, discord with her mother, and inconsistency in taking her medications. McCarthy’s daughter’s last visit with Dr. Getz occurred on September 10, 2015. On September 23, 2015, prior to discovering her daughter’s death, McCarthy contacted Dr. Getz to report her daughter missing. McCarthy requested Dr. Getz put her daughter on a 72-hour hold once located. On September 22, 2017, one day shy of the two-year anniversary of her daughter’s death, McCarthy filed a complaint with the district court. On November 9, 2017, McCarthy filed a summons and complaint alleging malpractice against Dr. Getz. McCarthy’s issue on appeal was whether the district court erred as a matter of law in granting the motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in determining McCarthy’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations. View "McCarthy v. Getz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the order of the trial court denying Defendant hospital's plea to the jurisdiction on Plaintiff's complaint alleging personal injury and death proximately cause by a condition or use of tangible personal property, holding that Plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated both use and proximate cause. At issue was whether Defendant's use of an allegedly improper carrier agent during surgery constitutes negligent use of tangible personal property and, if so, whether sufficient evidence established that this use proximately caused the decedent's death. On appeal to the Supreme Court Defendant argued that because the carrier agent was properly administered during surgery, Plaintiffs complained only of negligent medical judgment, for which immunity was not waived. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that regardless of the manner in which the property was administered, when, as here, the claim was premised on Defendant's use of property that was improper under the circumstances and caused harm, this was sufficient to establish negligent use under the Texas Tort Claims Act. View "University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center v. McKenzie" on Justia Law

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Nancy Ortega appealed a district court order granting summary judgment in favor of Sanford Bismarck and Dr. Christie Iverson on her professional negligence claim. The matter was dismissed without prejudice. Ortega was seen at Sanford Bismarck for upper right abdomen pain. A CT scan revealed she had a right ovarian tumor. Dr. Iverson performed surgery to remove her left ovary. The surgery included a hysterectomy, bilateral salpingectomy, left oophorectomy and lysis of adhesions. Several months later, Dr. Iverson performed a second surgery to remove the right ovary. Ortega filed suit alleging malpractice when Dr. Iverson removed the left ovary instead of the right. The hospital and doctor moved to dismiss, arguing Ortega could not establish she suffered any damages. Although not argued by the hospital or doctor, the trial court held Ortega failed to file an admissible expert opinion supporting a prima facie medical malpractice claim within three months of filing her action, as required under N.D.C.C. 28-01-46. The court held Dr. Iverson’s removal of the ovary was not an “obvious occurrence” precluding application of 28-01-46, and that the “wrong organ” exception in the statute did not apply. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that Sanford and Dr. Iverson did not assert Ortega’s claims were barred by N.D.C.C 28-01-46, and they conceded the statute would not apply. Under these facts and circumstances, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in applying N.D.C.C. 28-01-46 to grant summary judgment. The judgment was therefore reversed, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Ortega v. Sanford Bismarck, et al." on Justia Law