Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

by
Psychiatrists employed by the Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC) diagnosed inmate Adam Israel with paranoid schizophrenia. The inmate disputed his diagnosis, contending that his claimed rare genetic ability to see the electro-magnetic radiation of poltergeists was misunderstood as a delusion. The inmate brought a medical malpractice action against the psychiatrists and DOC seeking rescission of his diagnosis and damages. DOC filed a motion for summary judgment supported by an affidavit from DOC’s chief medical officer. The affidavit confirmed the inmate’s diagnosis and asserted that the inmate received treatment consistent with his diagnosis. After notifying the inmate that he needed expert testimony to oppose the motion for summary judgment, the superior court granted DOC’s summary judgment motion because the inmate failed to provide expert testimony to rebut DOC’s evidence. Israel appealed, arguing that DOC’s medical director was not qualified to testify about the standard of care under AS 09.20.185. The Alaska Supreme Court determined Israel failed to create a genuine issue of material fact about the correctness of his diagnosis. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment. The Supreme Court also rejected Israel's other arguments raised on appeal. View "Israel v. Alaska, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

by
The estate of Ed Young, deceased, by and through its personal representative, Fannie Pollard, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of H.C. Partnership d/b/a Hill Crest Behavioral Health Services ("Hill Crest") in a wrongful-death action alleging medical malpractice. On May 7, 2017, the estate of Ed Young sued Hill Crest alleging that Hill Crest caused Young's death on May 9, 2015, by improperly administering the antipsychotic drugs Haldol and Thorazine to Young as a chemical restraint without taking a proper medical history and evaluating him. The style of the complaint indicated that it was filed by the "Estate of Ed Young and Fannie M. Pollard as personal representative of the Estate of Ed Young." On May 8, 2017, the probate court appointed Fannie M. Pollard as administrator of Young's estate. On May 9, 2017, the two-year limitations period under Alabama's wrongful-death act expired. On June 15, 2017, the estate filed an amended complaint, adding additional claims against Hill Crest. The amended complaint listed as plaintiffs the estate and Pollard as the personal representative of the estate. The parties then engaged in discovery. In 2019, Hill Crest moved for summary judgment, arguing that Pollard was not the personal representative of the estate when the complaint was filed, and therefore she lacked capacity to bring suit. Furthermore, Hill Crest argued the complaint was a nullity and there was no properly filed underlying action to which Pollard's subsequent appointment as personal representative could relate. The Alabama Supreme Court found Hill Crest's argument regarding the relation-back doctrine as unavailing: "the relation-back doctrine 'simply recognizes and clarifies what has already occurred' in that application of the doctrine does not extend the limitations period but merely allows substitution of a party in a suit otherwise timely filed." Summary judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Pollard v. H.C. Partnership d/b/a Hill Crest Behavioral Health Services" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's decision granting summary judgment for Dr. Martin T. Faitak and dismissing J. David John's complaint alleging claims of medical negligence and other torts, holding that Faitak was not entitled to quasi-judicial immunity in this case. John's claims concerned psychological and counseling treatment Faitak provided to John and Megan Bolinder, who were parties in a custody case involving John and Megan's child. The circuit court concluded that Faitak was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that quasi-judicial immunity did not apply to the alleged acts upon which John's claims were based. View "John v. Faitak" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiffs' medical malpractice claims, holding that Plaintiffs failed to set forth specific facts showing a prima facie case of causation and lost chance of survival. Sharon Susie lost her right arm and eight of her toes due to a disorder known as necrotizing fasciitis. Sharon and her husband (together, Plaintiffs) filed a negligence claim against Defendants seeking damages for the amputation of Sharon's arm and other injuries. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants were negligent because Sharon's condition was not properly diagnosed and treatment was not timely commenced and that Defendants' actions resulted in the lost chance to save Sharon's arm and toes from amputation. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted because Plaintiffs failed to set forth specific facts showing a prima facie case of causation and lost chance of survival. View "Susie v. Family Health Care of Siouxland, P.L.C." on Justia Law

by
Penny Phillips, her son, and daughter, brought a medical malpractice suit against various Idaho Falls health care providers. Phillips and her children alleged the health care providers were negligent in the care they provided to Phillips’ husband, Scott Phillips, immediately prior to his death by suicide. The district court rejected the Phillipses’ claims by granting summary judgment in favor of the health care providers. The Phillipses appealed several adverse rulings by the district court. The health care providers cross-appealed, contending the district court abused its discretion in amending the scheduling order to allow the Phillipses to name a rebuttal expert. The Idaho Supreme Court determined summary judgment was improvidently granted: it was an abuse of the trial court's discretion in: (1) granting the providers' motion for a protective order preventing the Phillipses from conducting a I.R.C.P. 30(b)(6) deposition regarding the community standard of care; (2) in allowing depositions of local familiarization experts because it did not apply the correct standard; and (3) striking an expert's testimony because that expert demonstrated the requisite actual knowledge of the local standard of care. The court did not abuse its discretion in granting the Phillipses' motion to amend the scheduling order. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Phillips v. Eastern ID Health Svcs" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners Phillip and Jeanne Ethier appealed a verdict in favor of Respondent Dr. Guy Bibeau, who misdiagnosed a popliteal aneurysm as a probable spider bite. During voir dire, the court asked prospective jurors whether they ever had a "close social or a personal relationship" with either the Ethiers or Dr. Bibeau. After no one indicated they did, the court asked the same question about the list of potential witnesses, which included Jerilyn Wadford and Rhonda Gwynn, two nurses who examined Ethier, and the CEO of Fairfield Memorial, Mike Williams. To this question, juror Teresa Killian informed the court, "I used to work at Fairfield Memorial Hospital with Mike Williams." Killian never disclosed that she also worked with Bibeau or the two nurses. After trial, the Ethiers' counsel learned Killian previously worked with Bibeau and the nurses, and that Killian had discussed her knowledge of them with other jurors. One of the jurors, Sandra Carmichael, attested Killian stated she knew the nurses as well as Bibeau. Carmichael also noted that during jury breaks, Killian repeatedly discussed Bibeau's skills as a doctor. Four jurors said Killian vouched for the skill, proficiency, and truthfulness of all three during jury breaks. Carmichael testified that Killian's statements affected her vote, as she initially believed Bibeau was more negligent. Nevertheless, while the trial court found Killian had engaged in premature deliberations, it found no prejudice. The court also believed Killian did not intentionally conceal that she knew Bibeau and the three nurses through her previous employment, contending the question was ambiguous because it only addressed "close personal or social relationships." Accordingly, the trial court denied the Ethiers' motion for a new trial. Petitioners contended the court of appeals erred in affirming the trial court's decision to deny granting a new trial based on intentional juror concealment and premature deliberations. The South Carolina Supreme Court concluded Killian's intentional disregard of the trial court's repeated instructions not to engage in premature deliberations directly affected the verdict. "Killian discussed matters that were not introduced as evidence, and bolstered other evidence that had been admitted. Further, Killian's conduct is egregious, as she repeatedly discussed the case after being instructed not to do so." Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Ethier v. Fairfield Memorial" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff and her husband filed a medical malpractice action against Doctors Medical and others, including Defendant Remington, after plaintiff became paralyzed following carpel tunnel surgery. Remington performed the spinal decompression surgery on plaintiff after she became paralyzed, but she did not recover a substantial amount of function following the surgery. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly granted the motion for a new trial and affirmed the judgment. The court agreed with the trial court that granting summary judgment in favor of Remington on statute of limitations grounds constituted an error of law. The court wrote that the persistence of plaintiff's symptoms was not necessarily an appreciable manifestation of harm from Remington's treatment. The court held that there is a factual dispute regarding when plaintiff experienced appreciable harm that would have caused a reasonable person to be suspicious of Remington's wrongdoing. View "Brewer v. Remington" on Justia Law

by
In this medical malpractice case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Plaintiffs' motion to set aside the jury's verdict in favor of Defendants, holding that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the doctrine of acceptable alternatives, but the error was harmless, and Plaintiffs' request that the Court abolish the acceptable alternatives doctrine was denied. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the trial court improperly instructed the jury by including a charge on the acceptable alternatives doctrine because no evidence supported the charge. Alternatively, Plaintiffs asked the Court to abolish the acceptable alternatives doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed the jury's finding that Plaintiffs failed to establish that Defendants had breached the standard of care, holding (1) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the acceptable alternatives charge, but this instructional error was harmless; and (2) the trial court did not improperly limit Plaintiffs' allegations regarding breach of the standard of care in responding to the jury's request for clarification of the jury instructions. View "Kos v. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the qualified protective order entered by the trial court in this case, holding that Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(f) is unconstitutional as enacted to the limited extent that it divests trial courts of their inherent discretion over discovery and that the statute can be elided to make it permissive and not mandatory upon trial courts. Plaintiff filed this healthcare liability wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent alleging that Defendant's negligent treatment of the decedent resulted in the decedent's death. During discovery, Defendants filed a motion for a qualified protective order pursuant to section 29-26-121(f), which allows defense counsel to conduct ex parte interviews with patients' non-party treating healthcare providers in a healthcare liability lawsuit. In response, Plaintiff argued that the statute is unconstitutional because it deprives the trial court of its inherent authority over court proceedings. The trial court entered a written qualified protective order allowing the interviews. The Supreme Court vacated the qualified protective order, holding (1) section 29-26-121(f) impermissibly intrudes on the authority of the judiciary over procedural matters; and (2) the unconstitutional portion of the statute may be elided, and the statute as elided is constitutional. View "Willeford v. Klepper" on Justia Law

by
In this healthcare liability action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion for directed verdict and motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), holding that the trial court gave an erroneous charge that instructed the jury on the incorrect law applicable in the case. Plaintiffs filed this action against their obstretician, claiming that Defendant failed to exercise ordinary care when delivering Plaintiffs' baby and that Defendant's negligence proximately caused the baby's brachial plexus injury. At the close of the evidence Defendant moved for a directed verdict, arguing that there was legally insufficient evidence of willful and wanton negligence as required under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 74.153. The trial court denied the motion. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs, finding that Defendant was negligent under an ordinary, and not a willful and wanton, negligence standard. The trial court denied Defendant's motion for JNOV. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court erred in charging the jury because the jury should have considered whether section 74.153's standard of willful and wanton negligence applied in this case where it was contested whether Defendant provided emergency medical care to the mother and the baby. View "Glenn v. Leal" on Justia Law