Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the district court's dismissal of a medical malpractice action brought against a hospital system based on the alleged negligence of independent contractors involved in providing care for a patient in the emergency rooms of two different hospitals owned by the hospital system, holding that a hospital can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of an independent contractor based on the doctrine of apparent authority. In granting the hospital system's motion to dismiss, the district court ruled that a hospital is not vicariously liable for the acts of non-employees. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a plaintiff states a vicarious liability claim against a hospital for the professional negligence of independent contractors in the hospital's emergency room based on a theory of apparent authority if the hospital held itself out as a provider of emergency medical care and the patient looked to the hospital, rather than a specific doctor, for care and relied on the hospital to select the physical and other medical professionals to provide the necessary services. View "Popovich v. Allina Health System" on Justia Law

by
An employee of a federally supported health center failed to properly administer a drug to Alexis Stokes while she gave birth to Baby Stokes. As a result, Baby Stokes suffered from “cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia,” along with other disabilities, and his life expectancy was 22 years. The district court awarded damages to Baby Boy D.S. (Baby Stokes) and his parents, Alexis Stokes and Taylor Stokes, (collectively, the Stokes) in this Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) action. The government appealed, arguing that the district court erred in structuring damage payments. The Stokes cross appealed, arguing that the district court erred both by miscalculating the present value of a portion of the award and by awarding too little in noneconomic damages. After review, the Tenth Circuit: (1) vacated and remanded the portion of the district court’s order structuring a trust with respect to Baby Stokes’s future-care award, with instructions to fully approximate section 9.3 of the FTCA; (2) vacated and remanded the portion of the district court’s order calculating the present value of Baby Stokes’s future-care award, with instructions to apply Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. v. Pfeifer, 462 U.S. 523 (1983); and (3) affirmed the portion of the district court’s order regarding noneconomic damages. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Stokes v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing Plaintiff's motion for a new trial, holding that the court of appeals erred when it held that the trial court should have ordered a new trial in this medical malpractice case. Plaintiff filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice action against Defendants. The case proceeded to trial. The jury began deliberations on Friday at 11 a.m. At 10 p.m. the jurors reached a verdict in the defense's favor. One month after the trial, the trial court received a letter from one of the jurors saying that she regretted her vote and had compromised her beliefs to avoid having to return to court the following week. The trial court denied Plaintiff's motion for a new trial without considering the juror's letter. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Ohio R. Evid. 606(B) did not preclude the court from considering the letter and that the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion for mistrial was an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court properly refused to consider the juror letter; and (2) the trial court properly refused to order a new trial. View "Jones v. Cleveland Clinic Foundation" on Justia Law

by
In 2008, Elma Betty Temple (“Elma”), who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, became a resident of Providence Care Center, a nursing home located in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Providence Care Center, LLC (“Providence”) owned and operated the facility, while Grane Healthcare Company (“Grane”) provided management services. In November 2011, Elma, then aged 81, fell while walking on a ramp. She suffered a fracture in her right humerus, a fracture in her right pelvis, and a laceration to her right elbow. Providence apparently was not supervising Elma at the time; the only witness to the incident, a hospice chaplain, was not a designated caregiver. In 2012, Emla's son, James Temple (“Temple”), filed a complaint on Elma’s behalf against Providence and Grane, alleging negligence and corporate negligence, and sought punitive damages. Temple alleged that Providence should have known that Elma required supervision, because of two previous falls in 2011. Temple further claimed that the facility was understaffed, and that Providence failed to provide needed safety measures. In this case, a panel of the superior court concluded that, even though Providence had waived its opportunity to ask for a mistrial, the trial court nonetheless possessed and invoked its inherent authority to grant a new trial sua sponte for the same reasons that Providence raised in its post-trial motions. In so ruling, the superior court affirmed the trial court’s grant of a new trial. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recognized that a trial court possesses "the very limited and restrained authority to halt proceedings and compel them to begin anew based upon that unpreserved error. But in such a circumstance, a trial court may only use its sua sponte authority to grant a new trial where 'exceedingly clear error' results in 'manifest injustice,' of a constitutional or structural nature." Because Providence did not preserve its request for a mistrial and because the trial court did not grant, and could not have granted, a new trial sua sponte based upon the unpreserved request for a mistrial, the Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Temple v. Providence Care Center" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the "common knowledge" exception to the affidavit requirement for professional negligence claims against a provider of health care can also be applied to determine whether a claim that appears to sound in professional negligence, and does not fall under Nev. Rev. Stat. 41A.100, actually sounds in ordinary negligence and thus is not subject to Nev. Rev. Stat. 41A.071. A nursing home nurse mistakenly administered morphine to a patient that had been prescribed for another patient. The patient died three days later from morphine intoxication. The patient's estate sued the nursing home but did not explicitly assert any claim for professional negligence or file an expert affidavit under section 41A.071. The district court granted summary judgment for the nursing home, concluding that the complaint's allegations sounded in professional negligence and, therefore, the estate was required to file an expert affidavit. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the mistaken administration of another patient's morphine constituted ordinary negligence that a lay juror could assess without expert testimony, and such a claim is not subject to section 41A.071's medical expert affidavit requirement; and (2) the district court correctly granted summary judgment on the allegations regarding the failure to monitor, as those allegations required expert testimony to support. View "Estate of Mary Curtis v. Las Vegas Medical Investors, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this negligence action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Defendant, holding that a juror should have been struck for cause based on bias and that there was prejudice because Plaintiff, the party objecting to the juror, was forced to exhaust her last peremptory challenge and accept and objectionable juror. The estate of Kandace Pyles brought a negligence claim against various medical providers, including Defendant. The juror in this case stated that he did not want to serve as a juror, that he had a favorable impression of doctors, and that he would not be able to assess noneconomic damages. Plaintiff moved to strike the juror for cause, and the trial court denied the motion. Plaintiff used her final peremptory challenge on the juror. After a trial, the jury found that Defendant was not negligent. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court's decision to deny Plaintiff's for-cause challenge was illogical and that a new trial was appropriate. View "Clark v. Mattar" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Christi McAlpine filed a medical malpractice action against defendant Dr. Daniel Norman for injuries she suffered as a result of colonoscopies performed on her in 2015. In 2018, with trial approaching, Norman filed a summary judgment motion, supported by a declaration from an expert who reviewed McAlpine’s medical records, and opined that Norman’s actions were within the standard of care. McAlpine opposed the motion, but did not submit a competing expert opinion. While the summary judgment motion was pending, McAlpine sought leave to amend her complaint. The trial court denied leave to amend and granted summary judgment. McAlpine appealed the grant of summary judgment and the order denying her motion for leave to amend, arguing that the expert declaration presented in support of the motion for summary judgment was conclusory and insufficient to meet the initial burden for summary judgment. She also argued the trial court abused its discretion in denying her request for leave to amend. The Court of Appeal found no abuse of discretion in the order denying leave to amend, but agreed the trial court improperly granted summary judgment based on an expert opinion unsupported by factual detail or reasoned explanation. Accordingly, the Court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "McAlpine v. Norman" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, the widow and executrix of her late husband's estate, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging a claim of medical malpractice on behalf of the estate and alleging individually a claim of wrongful death. The claims stemmed from injuries her husband suffered during a fall, shortly before his death, while hospitalized in a Veterans Affairs hospital. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the medical malpractice claim in the absence of a breach of the applicable standard of medical care. In this case, substantial evidence supported the district court's factual findings with respect to the husband's condition on the morning of the fall and the care the nurses provided him to and after his fall. The court also held that the district court did not err in dismissing the wrongful death claim in the absence of an underlying tort claim. View "Howard v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Lula McLeod and her husband, John McLeod, appeal the circuit court’s dismissal of their medical-negligence case on grounds that it was filed outside of the limit in the applicable statute of limitations. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that because the record reflected the case was timely filed, the circuit court’s judgment should be reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "McLeod v. Millette" on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether petitioners-parents waived the marital counseling privilege when they filed a claim for damages against the doctors who treated their infant son on the ground that the child was misdiagnosed with cancer. Prior to the alleged misdiagnosis, Brian and Emily Magney had engaged in and completed marital counseling. Defendant doctors sought discovery of the records, but the Magneys filed a motion for a protection order to prevent disclosure given that the records were privileged. The superior court denied the motion and ordered disclosure. analogizing the marital counseling privilege to the psychologist-client privilege, which the Court of Appeals has held is automatically waived when emotional distress is at issue. The Supreme Court reversed the superior court, holding the Magneys did not automatically waive privilege because filing a lawsuit is not one of the enumerated exceptions under the "marital counseling" privilege statute. The Court could not determine on the record whether the privilege was impliedly waived by the actions of the Magneys at this point in litigation. The matter was remanded to the superior court for an in camera review of the records and evidence the parties submitted to determine whether the privilege was impliedly waived. View "Magney v. Pham" on Justia Law