Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

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In a medical malpractice case, Bobbi Ann Mertis filed a lawsuit against Dr. Dong-Joon Oh, North American Partners in Anesthesia (Pennsylvania), LLC (NAPA), Wilkes-Barre Hospital, and Commonwealth Health. Mertis alleged that Dr. Oh negligently administered a femoral nerve block, causing her a femoral nerve injury. Dr. Oh retained a law firm, Scanlon, Howley & Doherty, to represent him. Later, Dr. Eugene Kim, the orthopedic surgeon who performed Mertis’s knee surgery and was not named as a defendant, also retained the same law firm after receiving a subpoena to appear at a discovery deposition.The Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas denied Mertis's motion for sanctions to disqualify the law firm from representing Dr. Oh and to bar the firm's further ex parte communication with Dr. Kim. The court found no violation of Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 4003.6, which regulates obtaining information from a party's treating physician. Mertis appealed to the Superior Court, which reversed the trial court's decision and remanded the case. The Superior Court found that Rule 4003.6 was violated and that the law firm's concurrent representation of Dr. Oh and Dr. Kim was tantamount to ex parte communication.The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the Superior Court's decision. The court concluded that a law firm representing a defendant treating physician cannot obtain information from a nonparty treating physician without the patient's written consent or through an authorized method of discovery. The court found that the client exception in Rule 4003.6(1) does not permit a law firm to obtain information from a nonparty treating physician by entering into an attorney-client relationship with that physician when the law firm's attorneys were already prohibited from obtaining information from that physician under Rule 4003.6 prior to entering such attorney-client relationship. View "Mertis v. Oh" on Justia Law

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The case involves a medical malpractice claim brought by Ivan J. Konsul against Juan Antonio Asensio, M.D. The claim arose from treatment Konsul received after being admitted to Creighton University Medical Center following a motor vehicle accident. Asensio, a trauma surgeon, placed an inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter) in Konsul to prevent migration of deep vein thrombosis. Konsul alleged that Asensio violated applicable standards of care in various respects, including unnecessary placement of the filter, improper location of the filter, and failing to inform Konsul of the long-term risks of the filter remaining in his body. Konsul claimed that due to Asensio's failures, the filter migrated throughout his body and became lodged behind his heart, causing physical pain, mental suffering, and additional health care costs.The case went to a jury trial. Konsul called Dr. David Dreyfuss as an expert witness to provide testimony regarding the standard of care applicable to Asensio. However, the district court ruled that Dreyfuss could not testify regarding the applicable standard of care in Omaha, as he was not familiar with the standard of care in Omaha or a similar community. Without Dreyfuss' testimony, Konsul provided no evidence of the standard of care, and the district court dismissed Konsul's case.Konsul appealed, claiming that the district court erred when it struck Dreyfuss as an expert witness and when it granted Asensio's motion for a directed verdict and dismissed the case. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision, concluding that the district court did not err when it struck Dreyfuss as an expert witness and when it granted Asensio's motion for a directed verdict and dismissed Konsul's case. The court also found that any error regarding the deposition issues was harmless considering the proper dismissal of the action based on Konsul's failure to provide evidence of the standard of care. View "Konsul v. Asensio" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a medical malpractice claim filed by Jillyn M. Woodward, individually and as Special Administrator of the Estate of Brian K. Woodward, deceased, against Saint Francis Medical Center and the doctors who treated Brian. Brian was admitted to the emergency room at Saint Francis Medical Center with a swollen tongue and difficulty swallowing. He was diagnosed with angioedema, a condition causing abnormal swelling of the tongue, mouth, and airway. Despite treatment, his condition worsened, and he had to be intubated. The intubation attempts were unsuccessful, leading to a delay in securing his airway. Brian later developed right-side semiparesis, including weakness and partial paralysis, which was attributed to an anoxic brain injury due to the delay in securing his airway.The District Court for Hall County granted summary judgment in favor of the doctors and Saint Francis Medical Center. The court also struck the affidavits of two expert witnesses provided by Woodward, citing inconsistencies with their earlier deposition testimonies. Woodward appealed the decision.The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision. The court held that the change in testimony of nonparty witnesses is an issue of credibility for a fact finder to make, and that later testimony will normally not be struck by the trial court. The court also noted that the document provided by Saint Francis Medical Center did not conclusively establish that the doctors were not employees or agents of the hospital. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Woodward v. Saint Francis Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Arasely Soto, a public school teacher, was injured during a routine medical procedure and had to retire. She sued her medical providers for malpractice and also sought disability retirement benefits from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). She and her husband, Raul Soto, settled with several of the medical malpractice defendants. CalSTRS brought an action against the Sotos, seeking to enforce its right to subrogation or reimbursement from the Sotos' settlement with the malpractice defendants.The trial court granted CalSTRS’s motion for summary adjudication on its declaratory relief cause of action and denied the Sotos’ motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that CalSTRS was entitled to seek reimbursement from the Sotos and rejected the Sotos’ defense that Civil Code section 3333.1 bars any subrogation claim that CalSTRS would have asserted against the malpractice defendants. The Sotos filed a petition for writ of mandate asking the Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Two to vacate the trial court’s orders.The appellate court agreed with CalSTRS’s argument that it has a statutory reimbursement claim against the Sotos, and the evidence in this case does not support application of section 3333.1 to bar CalSTRS’s claim. The court denied the Sotos' petition for writ of mandate. View "Soto v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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This case involves a wrongful death claim against San Antonio Regional Hospital, brought by Joseph Musharbash, following the death of his adult son, Michael, who was treated for a traumatic brain injury at the hospital. Musharbash alleges that the hospital provided inadequate care by failing to properly evaluate Michael's injuries and undertake appropriate courses of action. Specifically, he claims that surgical intervention was performed too late and that the nursing staff failed to adequately monitor Michael, inform his doctors of his status, and advocate for the need for earlier surgical intervention.The hospital moved for summary judgment, arguing that Musharbash's only expert, Rhona Wang, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, lacked the requisite skill or experience to opine on the standard of care or causation elements of the claim. The trial court denied the hospital's motion for summary judgment, finding that Wang's declaration demonstrated triable issues about the standard of care and causation elements of Musharbash's claim. The hospital then petitioned for writ relief.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two, granted the petition. The court found that Wang's qualifications did not establish that she had the specialized knowledge required to opine on the standard of care applicable to an intensive care unit neurosurgeon deciding whether a severe traumatic brain injury requires immediate surgical intervention, or whether that standard of care was breached. The court also found that Wang's declaration did not establish she was competent to opine on causation. As Wang was Musharbash's only proffered expert, her lack of competence to opine on the applicable standard of care and causation was fatal to his claim. The court directed the trial court to vacate its order denying the hospital's motion for summary judgment and to enter a new order granting the motion for summary judgment. View "San Antonio Regional Hospital v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a medical malpractice claim filed by Darrin P. Miller against Catholic Health Initiatives-Iowa, Corp. and several medical professionals. The claim arose from the death of Miller's wife, Meredith, who died after a car accident when an endotracheal tube was incorrectly placed in her esophagus instead of her trachea. Miller alleged that the medical providers breached the standard of care by incorrectly performing the intubation and failing to identify and correct the error.The defendants sought dismissal of the case on two grounds: the expert's certificate of merit was not signed under oath as required by Iowa Code section 147.140, and the expert, an anesthesiologist, was not qualified to testify against the defendant surgeons or respiratory therapist. The district court denied the defendants' motions, ruling that the expert's unsworn but signed letter substantially complied with the affidavit requirement and that the expert's qualifications satisfied section 147.139.The Supreme Court of Iowa reversed the district court's decision. The court held that the expert's signed but unsworn report did not substantially comply with section 147.140's affidavit requirement, and this violation was not cured by the expert's sworn declaration served over three months after the statutory deadline. The court did not reach the question of whether the expert anesthesiologist was qualified under section 147.139 to testify against these defendants. The case was remanded for dismissal of the medical malpractice claims with prejudice. View "Miller v. Catholic Health Initiatives-Iowa, Corp." on Justia Law

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A mother sued her doctor and his medical practice for allegedly failing to perform a sterilization procedure she paid for and then failing to tell her that the procedure was not performed. She claims the doctor’s actions caused an unplanned pregnancy and the birth of her healthy fourth child. The mother sought to recover damages for medical expenses, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, and the costs to maintain, support, and educate her daughter.The trial court granted summary judgment for the doctor as to all claims, and the mother timely appealed. A divided court of appeals reversed in part and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. The majority affirmed the grant of summary judgment as to most of the mother’s claims, reasoning that they were impermissibly recast health care liability claims. But the majority reversed the grant of summary judgment as to the medical-negligence claim, holding that the mother had produced some evidence of duty, breach, and damages.The Supreme Court of Texas held that when a mother alleges that medical negligence proximately caused an unplanned pregnancy, that claim is not foreclosed merely because the ultimate result is the birth of a healthy child. But the recoverable damages are limited. The mother may recover the cost of the sterilization procedure and economic damages designed to compensate for injuries proximately caused by the negligence, such as medical expenses incurred during the pregnancy, delivery, and postnatal period, if proven. But Texas law does not permit recovery of the expenses of raising the healthy child, or any noneconomic damages, because the birth and life of a healthy child do not constitute an injury under Texas law. The court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment in part and reinstated the trial court’s judgment. View "Noe v. Velasco" on Justia Law

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Six patients filed medical malpractice actions against the estate and practice of a deceased physician, alleging that the physician breached the standard of care. The patients submitted various materials to medical review panels, including a wrongful death complaint filed by the physician's wife in a separate malpractice action. The defendants petitioned the trial court to redact the wife's complaint and any mention of its contents from the patients' submissions. The trial court granted the petition.The case was appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court's decision. The patients then petitioned for transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the lower courts' decisions. The court concluded that trial courts do not have the authority to act as gatekeeper of the evidence a party submits to a medical review panel. The court also held that the third-party complaint in this case is evidence, and therefore, the trial court lacked the authority to order the patients to redact their submissions. The case was remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Bojko v. Anonymous Physician" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over personal jurisdiction. Worth Harris Carter Jr., a Virginia resident, sought treatment for a rash from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and Wake Forest University Health Sciences in North Carolina. Despite numerous in-person visits and follow-up communications via phone calls, text messages, and an online patient portal, Mr. Carter's condition worsened, and he was eventually diagnosed with skin cancer. After his death, Katherine Louise Carter, executor of Mr. Carter's estate, filed a lawsuit against Wake Forest in Virginia, alleging medical malpractice.The Circuit Court for the City of Martinsville dismissed the case, ruling that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Wake Forest. The court found that Wake Forest's communications with the Carters in Virginia were responses to inquiries initiated by the Carters and did not constitute purposeful availment of the privilege of conducting activities within Virginia. The Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed this decision, emphasizing that the actual treatment occurred in North Carolina and that Wake Forest did not maintain a presence or solicit business in Virginia.The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the lower courts' decisions. The court concluded that Wake Forest's contacts with Virginia were incidental to in-person treatment and were directed to the patient in need, rather than the forum state itself. The court found that Wake Forest's responses to the Carters' communications did not constitute purposeful availment of the privilege of conducting activities in Virginia. The court also noted that the communications between Ms. Carter and Wake Forest were more aptly characterized as isolated or attenuated and were insufficient to give rise to jurisdiction. View "Carter v. Wake Forest" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a patient, Tommy Harris, who contracted bacterial sepsis due to repeated infections from his dialysis treatment at a clinic in Belleville, Illinois. Harris filed a malpractice lawsuit against the operators of the clinic and later included a claim against Durham Enterprises, Inc., the janitorial company responsible for cleaning the facility. The case primarily concerns Durham’s insurance coverage. Durham submitted the lawsuit to Ohio Security Insurance Company, its insurer, which denied coverage based on the insurance policy’s exclusion for injuries caused by fungi or bacteria. Harris and Durham then negotiated an agreement in which Durham promised not to mount a defense and Harris promised to seek recovery only from the insurer. The state trial judge granted a motion to sever Harris's claim against Durham and set it for a bench trial. The judge held a short, uncontested bench trial and entered judgment against Durham for more than $2 million.Ohio Security was not a party to the state court proceedings and the insurance policy was not in the record. However, the consent judgment includes findings on insurance issues, notably, that the insurer breached its duty to defend and is estopped from asserting any policy defenses. After the judgment became final, Harris filed an amended complaint purporting to add Ohio Security as a defendant. Ohio Security removed the action to federal court and sought a declaration of its coverage obligations. The district court held that the bacteria exclusion precludes coverage.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Harris and Durham jointly appealed, challenging the no-coverage ruling but also raising a belated challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker–Feldman doctrine. The court found the jurisdictional argument meritless, as the Rooker–Feldman doctrine does not block federal jurisdiction over claims by nonparties to state-court judgments. The court also affirmed the district court's ruling that the policy’s bacteria exclusion precludes coverage for this loss. View "Mitchell v. Durham Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law