Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

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Alice Borman filed this action against defendants Tara Brown, M.D. and North County Eye Center, Inc. (NCEC). Borman alleged that she sought treatment from defendants for a “droopy eyelid and brow.” According to Borman, Dr. Brown told Borman that Brown could perform a “brow lift” to correct the problem, but that a brow lift would not be covered by Borman’s insurance. Borman further alleged that Dr. Brown told Borman that she could instead perform a blepharoplasty, which would be covered by Borman’s insurance. Borman further claimed that Dr. Brown’s statement that a brow lift would not be covered by Borman’s insurance was false, and that Dr. Brown had no reasonable basis for making the statement. Borman alleged that she relied on Dr. Brown’s representations and agreed to undergo a blepharoplasty. After undergoing the blepharoplasty, Borman claimed that she continued to have physical difficulties with her eyelid and her brow. Borman consulted another doctor who advised Borman that Dr. Brown had “performed the wrong procedure and that a brow[ ]lift should have been performed instead.” The trial court denied Borman's motion for summary judgment, denied the motion for summary adjudication of the professional negligence and lack of informed consent causes action, but granted the motion for summary adjudication as to Borman’s fraud and deceit and battery causes of action. The trial court entered judgment in favor of defendants, and awarded costs to defendants as prevailing parties. Borman appealed, arguing the trial court erred in granting defendants' motion for summary adjudication with respect to her fraud and deceit cause of action, because the trial court should have permitted her to “proceed at trial on a claim for ‘[n]egligent [m]isrepresentation.’ ” The Court of Appeal concluded the record contained evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Dr. Brown intended for Borman to rely on her statement that a brow lift would not be covered by Borman’s insurance. Since that was the sole element of a negligent misrepresentation theory of liability that the trial court found Borman would be unable to prove, the Court further concluded the trial court erred in granting summary adjudication of Borman’s fraud and deceit cause of action. The trial court's postjudgment cost order, and the order granting summary adjudication of Brown’s fraud and deceit cause of action were both reversed, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Borman v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed this appeal from an order of the superior court denying Down East Orthopedic Associates, P.A.'s motion to dismiss Carol Cutting's complaint for medical malpractice, holding that Down East had not established that this was the rare case that warranted the application of the judicial economy exception to the final judgment rule.Cutting filed a federal malpractice action against Down East asserting counts for failure to obtain informed consent and medical malpractice. The federal court dismissed the federal malpractice case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Cutting then filed a complaint in the state superior court asserting the same causes of action as those in her federal malpractice case. Down East filed a motion to dismiss on claim preclusion grounds. The superior court denied the motion, and Down East appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that this appeal does not come within the judicial economy exception to the final judgment rule. View "Cutting v. Down East Orthopedic Associates, P.A." on Justia Law

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Filosa began complaining of headaches in 2004-2005. By 2010, the headaches were constant with acute episodes. In 2010, his doctor ordered an MRI. Dr. Alagappan, a radiologist, interpreted the results and did not detect any abnormalities. Filosa’s headaches worsened. He began taking antidepressants. Filosa’s symptoms affected his performance at work. He took medical leaves of absence in 2011 and 2012. He described vision problems, eye strain, extreme fatigue, and an inability to concentrate. Filosa’s employer demoted him for performance problems. Filosa asked a doctor whether he might have a brain tumor. His doctor dismissed the suggestion, saying nothing in Filosa’s blood work indicated he had cancer and that he had already had a negative MRI. In 2014, his headaches were sometimes incapacitating. He again raised the possibility of a tumor. He was referred to a neurologist and underwent brain imaging. He was told in December 2014 that the test showed a cyst or a tumor in his brain. A re-review of the 2010 MRI imaging showed a “relatively subtle” mass, which had increased. Filosa underwent surgery, which caused adverse physical effects. Filosa sued for medical negligence in 2016 based on the failure to diagnose the brain mass after his 2010 MRI. The trial court granted the defendants summary judgment, citing the statute of limitations. The court of appeal reversed. There is a triable issue of fact as to the date of Filosa’s injury and his discovery of the injury, View "Filosa v. Alagappan" on Justia Law

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Johnson & Johnson and other pharmaceutical defendants sought mandamus relief from an Alabama circuit court order that refused to transfer venue of the underlying lawsuit to the Jefferson County, Alabama circuit court, on grounds that venue in Conecuh County was not proper as to all plaintiffs, or alternatively, on the basis that convenience of the parties and/or the interest of justice required it. In 2019, the plaintiffs filed a complaint at the Conecuh Circuit Court against numerous defendants that, they averred, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and/or dispensed opioid medications throughout Alabama in a manner that was misleading, unsafe, and resulted in drug addiction, injury, and/or death to Alabama citizens. The complaint asserted claims of negligence, nuisance, unjust enrichment, fraud and deceit, wantonness, and civil conspiracy. The manufacturer defendants moved to transfer the case to Jefferson County, reasoning that because 8 of the 17 plaintiffs either had a place of business in Jefferson County or operated hospitals in Jefferson County or adjacent counties, logic dictated that a large percentage of the witnesses for those plaintiffs (i.e., prescribing doctors, hospital administrators, etc.) and their evidence were located in or around Jefferson County. After a review of the circuit court record, the Alabama Supreme Court determined defendants did not demonstrate a clear, legal right to transfer the underlying case from Conecuh to Jefferson County. Therefore, the petition was denied. View "Ex parte Johnson & Johnson et al." on Justia Law

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Janice and Timothy McGill appealed a circuit court judgment against them in their medical-malpractice lawsuit against Victor Szymela, M.D. The McGills alleged that Dr. Szymela failed to properly perform Janice's temporomandibular-joint total-replacement ("TJR") surgery. Janice sought treatment to relieve her temporomandibular-joint ("TMJ") disorder. Janice had been experiencing clicking and locking of her jaw and excruciating jaw and ear pain. Janice alleged that she experienced distinct, worse pain immediately after the surgery and that the new pain did not resolve with time. She continued to experience popping in her jaw. She alleged that her overbite was exacerbated by the surgery. She also alleged that she could not open her mouth as wide as previously and that she lost sensation in her lips, which diminished her ability to speak clearly. Janice sought treatment from Dr. Michael Koslin, who referred Janice to a pain-management specialist. Ultimately, Janice's providers determined that her pain was unresponsive to conservative treatment. In 2017, Dr. Koslin surgically removed the prosthesis. Several weeks later, Dr. Koslin implanted custom joints. Janice alleged Dr. Koslin's treatment relieved her pain. In March 2016, Janice sued Dr. Szymela, alleging that he breached the standard of care for an oral and maxillofacial surgeon by failing to properly assess the source of Janie's pain or install the prosthesis correctly. The McGills identified Dr. Louis G. Mercuri as one of their expert witnesses regarding oral and maxillofacial surgery. On Dr. Szymela's motion, the trial court ruled that Dr. Mercuri did not qualify as a "similarly situated health care provider" under § 6-5-548(c)(4), Ala. Code 1975, because he had not practiced in Dr. Szymela's specialty within the year preceding Dr. Szymela's alleged breach. Thus, the court excluded Dr. Mercuri as a witness. At the close of all evidence, on Dr. Szymela's motion, the trial court entered a partial judgment as a matter of law ("JML") in favor of Dr. Szymela. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court did not exceed its discretion by excluding the testimony of Dr. Mercuri on the basis that he was not statutorily qualified as an expert. And because the McGills did not present or point to substantial evidence of the standard of care for Dr. Szymela's performance of Janice's TJR surgery, the trial court properly entered a JML on the claims relating to the surgery. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "McGill v. Szymela" on Justia Law

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Martin Crowson was an inmate at the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility (the “Jail”) when he began suffering from symptoms of toxic metabolic encephalopathy. Nurse Michael Johnson and Dr. Judd LaRowe, two of the medical staff members responsible for Crowson’s care, wrongly concluded Crowson was experiencing drug or alcohol withdrawal. On the seventh day of medical observation, Crowson’s condition deteriorated and he was transported to the hospital, where he was accurately diagnosed. After Crowson recovered, he sued Johnson, LaRowe, and Washington County under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court denied motions for summary judgment on the issue of qualified immunity by Johnson and LaRowe, concluding a reasonable jury could find both were deliberately indifferent to Crowson’s serious medical needs, and that it was clearly established their conduct amounted to a constitutional violation. The district court also denied the County’s motion for summary judgment, concluding a reasonable jury could find the treatment failures were an obvious consequence of the County’s reliance on LaRowe’s infrequent visits to the Jail and the County’s lack of written protocols for monitoring, diagnosing, and treating inmates. Johnson, LaRowe, and the County filed consolidated interlocutory appeals, raising threshold questions of jurisdiction. Johnson and LaRowe challenged the denial of qualified immunity, while the County contended the Tenth Circuit should exercise pendent appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s denial of its summary judgment motion. The Tenth Circuit exercised limited jurisdiction over Johnson’s and LaRowe’s appeals pursuant to the exception to 28 U.S.C. 1291, carved out for purely legal issues of qualified immunity through the collateral order doctrine. The Court held Johnson’s conduct did not violate Crowson’s rights and, assuming without deciding LaRowe’s conduct did, the Court concluded LaRowe’s conduct did not violate any clearly established rights. The Court's holding was "inextricably intertwined with the County’s liability on a failure-to-train theory," so the Court exercised pendent appellate jurisdiction to the extent Crowson’s claims against the County rested on that theory. However, under Tenth Circuit binding precedent, the Court's holdings on the individual defendants’ appeals were not inextricably intertwined with Crowson’s claims against the County to the extent he advanced a systemic failure theory. The district court's denial of summary judgment to Johnson, LaRowe, and the County on the failure-to-train theory was reversed, and the remainder of the County’s appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. View "Crowson v. Washington County State, Utah" on Justia Law

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In this medical negligence lawsuit, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals denying Defendants' application for a writ of prohibition seeking to prevent the trial court from enforcing a protective order that forbade them from certain ex parte communications, holding that the trial court abused its discretion.Plaintiff brought this action against the University of Kentucky Medical Center and thirteen healthcare professionals allegedly employed by the Medical Center. Here, Defendants sought to prevent the trial court from enforcing a protective order forbidding them from ex parte communication with Plaintiff's unnamed treating physicians or other healthcare providers employed by the Medical Center. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the court of appeals with direction to issue a writ consistent with this decision, holding that the trial court abused its discretion because the basis of the order was purportedly the personal conviction of the trial court that departed from precedent without appropriate justification. View "Beck v. Honorable Ernesto Scorsone" on Justia Law

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In this case heard after the Kentucky Medical Review Panel Act (MRPA), Ky. Rev. Stat. 216C.005 et seq., was declared to be unconstitutional, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court finding the complaint to be untimely and dismissing this case, holding that the complaint was timely as to the individual defendants.Plaintiffs filed a complaint against advanced Practice Registered Nurse Wynetta Fletcher, Dr. Amjad Bkhari, Dr. James Detherage under the MRPA. After the claims made their way through the medical review panel process, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against the same defendants and the entities that allegedly employed them. After Plaintiffs filed their complaint, the Supreme Court's decision in Commonwealth v. Claycomb, 566 S.W.3d 202 (Ky. 2018), wherein the Court declared the MRPA unconstitutional, was finalized. Thereafter, Defendants filed motions to dismiss, alleging that the claims were untimely and that Plaintiffs could not rely on the tolling provision of the MRPA to extend the deadline. The circuit court dismissed the suit as untimely. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Ky. Rev. Stat. 413.270 applied to Plaintiffs' claims; and (2) Plaintiffs' claims were timely filed under section 413.270 but saved only those claims that were filed with the medical review panel. View "Smith v. Fletcher" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the defendants in this insurance dispute, holding that the Legislature has clearly and unequivocally excluded captive insurers from the requirements of the Kentucky Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act (USCPA), Ky. Rev. Stat. 304.12-230.Plaintiff brought this action against various healthcare defendants. The medical negligence claims were eventually settled. Thereafter, the circuit court denied Plaintiff's motion for declaratory relief as to his bad faith insurance claim against First Initiatives Insurance, Ltd., a foreign captive insurance entity that provides self-insurance for Catholic Health Initiatives, Inc. The court granted summary judgment for Catholic Health and First Initiatives. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that First Initiatives, as a captive insurer, is not subject to the USCPA. View "Merritt v. Catholic Health Initiatives, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rockne Lee Hollingsworth brought a medical malpractice claim against a local hospital and doctor in Gem County, Idaho district court. The district court found Hollingsworth lacked due diligence in failing to determine the hospital was a political subdivision, subject to the notice requirements of the Idaho Tort Claims Act (“ITCA”), and granted summary judgment for Respondents. Hollingsworth appealed, arguing the corporate filings made by the county-owned hospital created the false impression the hospital was a private corporation. Respondents contended the hospital and corporate entity, both owned by Gem County, were both subject to the ITCA because they were actually one and the same. To this, the Idaho Supreme Court concurred and reversed the district court's ruling. View "Hollingsworth v. Thompson" on Justia Law