Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

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In this medical malpractice case, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the district court abused its discretion by admitting testimony about causation from Dr. John Stark, an orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Kevin Stephan, an infection-disease specialist, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the doctors' causation testimony. This action arose from right-knee arthroplasty Dr. James Schaffhausen performed on Plaintiff. In her complaint, Plaintiff argued that, as a result of the surgery, she suffered permanent neurologic damage. The jury found for Plaintiff. Dr. Schaffhausen moved for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, arguing that it was error for Dr. Stark and Dr. Stephan to testify as to causation because they were not neurologists. The district court denied the motions. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the experts were not qualified to testify as to causation because they lacked the requisite occupational experience in neurology. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where the district court carefully weighed the qualifications of Dr. Stark and Dr. Stephan before deciding to admit their testimony, the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting their testimony on the issue of causation. View "Marquardt v. Schaffhausen" on Justia Law

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Elaine Kirt died in 2010, due to complications that developed shortly after undergoing eye surgery. On September 23, 2011, her son, Neville Kirt, appearing in person and on behalf of his deceased mother and his two brothers, filed a request with the Division of Administration asking for a medical review panel to review the care provided to his mother by three defendants: Dr. Rebecca Metzinger, the attending surgeon; Dr. Theodore Strickland III, the anesthesiologist for the procedure; and Tulane Medical Center. In a reply letter to Neville, the Patient’s Compensation Fund Oversight Board (PCF) acknowledged receipt of the request; confirmed Dr. Metzinger, Dr. Strickland, and Tulane University Hospital & Clinic were qualified under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (Act); informed Kirt a filing fee of $100 per qualified defendant was due; and requested payment of $300. The notice stated the failure to pay would render the request invalid, without effect, and would not suspend the time to file suit. Days later, then appearing through counsel, the Kirts sent a second letter asking to amend its previous request, adding two additional nurses. The Kirts included a $500 check to cover filing fees. A medical review panel convened, reviewed the care provided by all named healthcare providers, and found no breach of the standard of care. The Kirts thereafter filed against the doctors and nurses. Claims against the doctors were dismissed by summary judgments because there was no proof they breached the standard of care while treating Elaine Kirt. Those judgments expressly barred allocating fault to the dismissed parties and prohibited introducing evidence at trial to establish their fault. The nurses then filed peremptory exceptions of prescription, claiming the request for a medical review panel was invalid because the Kirts failed to pay the final $100 filing fee, and prescription was not suspended for any claims. The trial court concurred with the nurses and granted an exception of prescription. The Supreme Court determined that because the Kirts paid filing fees for five of six named defendants, dismissal of one of the nurses was proper for lack of a filing fee. The Court determined the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' argument that they could not have reasonable known about the claims against two of the nurse defendants until one was deposed. Because the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' basis for the exception of prescription, which could have turned on factual findings, the Supreme Court pretermitted consideration of these arguments and remanded the matter to the trial court for further disposition of the exception. View "Kirt v. Metzinger" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's order granting Defendant's motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiff's complaint failed to comply with N.C. R. Civ. P. 9(j), holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that Plaintiff's expert witness was unwilling to testify that Defendant did not comply with the applicable standard of care. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) both the trial court and the court of appeals erred in failing to view the evidence regarding the expert witness's willingness to testify under Rule 9(j) in the light most favorable to Plaintiff; (2) in its de novo review, the court of appeals erred by deferring entirely to the findings of the trial court; and (3) the complaint should not be dismissed on Rule 9(j) grounds because the factual record demonstrated that the expert witness was willing to testify at the time of the filing of the complaint that Defendant breached the standard of care. View "Preston v. Movahed" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a plaintiff relying on Nev. Rev. Stat. 41A.100's rebuttable presumption for a prima facie case of negligence need not provide expert testimony to survive a defendant's summary judgment motion but, rather, must only establish the facts that entitle her to the statute's rebuttable presumption of negligence. Plaintiff, special administrator to the estate of Maria Jaramillo, sued Defendant for medical malpractice under section 41A.100(1), asserting that Defendant breached the professional standard of care by unintentionally leaving a wire in Jaramillo's left breast. Relying on section 41A.100(1)(a), Plaintiff did not attach a medical expert affidavit. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that Defendant rebutted the presumption of negligence by providing expert testimony about the standard of care, and that, in the absence of contrary expert testimony from Plaintiff, it was uncontroverted that the unintentional leaving of a wire fragment in Jaramillo's body was not a result of negligence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the expert declaration Defendant presented supporting her summary judgment did not conclusively negate the statutory presumption of negligence but merely created a material factual dispute for trial on the issue of negligence; and (2) a genuine issue of material fact existed on the issue of negligence. View "Jaramillo v. Ramos" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice case, the Supreme Court held that although Nev. Rev. Stat. 41A.100(1) generally applies only to objects left in a patient's body during the at-issue surgery, it can also apply in cases where, as in the instant case, the sole purpose of the at-issue surgery is to remove medical devices and related hardware implanted during a previous surgery. Plaintiff brought a medical malpractice case alleging that Defendants breached the professional standard of care by overlooking or unintentionally leaving surgical clips in her body following a 2014 surgery. Relying on section 41A.100(1), Plaintiff did not attach a medical expert affidavit to her complaint. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that she intentionally left the surgical clips in Plaintiff's stomach following the at-issue surgery because removal would be too risky. The district court granted summary judgment, concluding that section 41A.100(1)(a) did not apply and, therefore, Plaintiff was required to present an expert affidavit to establish negligence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant did not conclusively negate the statutory presumption of negligence and that Plaintiff was not required to provide expert testimony to survive summary judgment. View "Cummings v. Barber" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's petition to proceed in forma pauperis in a civil rights and medical malpractice lawsuit, holding that the circuit court improperly relied upon the statutory burden of proof for medical malpractice claims when determining that Appellant's complaint failed to state a colorable cause of action. The circuit court concluded that Appellant established indigence but found that the underlying complaint failed to state a colorable cause of action because Appellant failed to comply with the statutory burden of proof in medical malpractice cases. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in relying on Ark. Code Ann. 16-114-206 in determining whether Appellant's complaint stated a colorable cause of action. View "Harmon v. Bland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiffs' medical malpractice action, holding that the uncontested facts showed that Plaintiffs' medical malpractice action was time barred. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the circuit court erred because genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether their medical malpractice action was timely because the continuing care doctrine applied to toll the two-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court rejected Plaintiffs' argument, holding that the uncontroverted material facts established that Plaintiffs' action was time barred. View "Newton v. Mercy Clinic East Communities" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the construction of Ariz. R. Civ. P. 4(i), the Supreme Court held that, under Rule 4(i), if a plaintiff shows good cause for failing to serve a defendant within ninety days, a court is required to extend the time for service, but also under the rule, a court in its discretion may extend the period for service without a plaintiff showing good cause. Melissa Langevin filed a complaint against Dr. Steven Sholem. More than ten months after the ninety-day deadline had expired, Langevin filed a motion pursuant to Rule 4(i) seeking to extend the time for service. The trial court determined there was good cause to grant the motion and extended the deadline. After Langevin served Sholem he moved to dismiss, arguing that the complaint did not show good cause for extending the deadline. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no good cause for an extension under rule 4(i), but there were discretionary grounds in the record to deny Sholem's motion to dismiss. View "Sholem v. Honorable David Gass" on Justia Law

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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

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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