Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

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In 2014, plaintiff-respondent Keith Burchell underwent what was supposed to be a simple, outpatient procedure to remove a small mass in his scrotum for testing. His surgeon, Dr. Gary Barker, discovered that the mass was more extensive than expected, believing the mass was malignant. Without consulting either Burchell (who was under anesthesia) or the person Burchell had designated as his medical proxy, Barker removed the mass from both the scrotum and the penis, a different and substantially more invasive procedure than had been contemplated. Burchell suffered serious side effects, some of which are permanent and irreversible. The mass turned out to be benign. Burchell brought suit, alleging professional negligence and medical battery. A jury returned a verdict for Burchell on both causes of action, awarding him $4 million in past noneconomic damages and $5.25 million in future noneconomic damages against Dr. Barker and defendant-appellant Faculty Physicians & Surgeons of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine (FPS). On appeal, FPS argued the award of noneconomic damages should have been reduced to the $250,000 limit on such damages in “any action for injury against a health care provider based on professional negligence” provided by Civil Code section 3333.2(a), part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA). In the alternative, FPS argued the award of noneconomic damages was excessive and the product of improper argument by Burchell’s counsel, so the Court of Appeal should reverse and remand for new trial unless Burchell accepts a reduction of the award to an amount we deem reasonable. Finally, FPS argued Burchell’s offer to compromise pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 998 was invalid, so the award of expert witness fees and prejudgment interest should also be reversed. After review, the Court of Appeal rejected FPS' first two arguments, but concurred that Burchell’s section 998 offer was invalid, and therefore reversed the award of expert witness fees and prejudgment interest. View "Burchell v. Faculty Physicians & Surgeons etc." on Justia Law

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Deborah Faison ("Deborah") died from cardiac arrest while she was a patient at Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, Alabama. Her husband Larry Faison ("Faison") then sued Gulf Health Hospitals, Inc. ("Gulf Health"), which owned and operated the hospital. Over a year after filing suit, Faison was allowed to amend his complaint by making additional factual allegations to support his claims. Gulf Health petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to strike the amended complaint. Gulf Health argued the the amendment was untimely and without good cause. The Supreme Court determined Gulf Health did not meet its burden of showing that a postjudgment appeal was an inadequate remedy. Therefore, petition was denied. View "Ex parte Gulf Health Hospitals, Inc., d/b/a Thomas Hospital." on Justia Law

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Kimberlee Spencer ("Kimberlee"), as personal representative of the estate of James Scott Spencer ("Scott"), her deceased husband, appealed a judgment as a matter of law entered by the circuit court at the close of Kimberlee's medical malpractice case against Michael Remillard, M.D., and Helena Family Medicine, LLC, the entity through which Dr. Remillard operated his family-medicine clinic ("the clinic"). On a visit in 2006 for a physical, Scott informed Dr. Remillard that his father had been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer. Scott had blood work and lab tests done during the 2006 visit, including a blood test used to assess a man's risk for developing prostate cancer. At that time, Scott's PSA level was 1.9, which was within the normal range for a man his age, 46 years old. In 2009, Scott again visited Dr. Remillard. Scott told Dr. Remillard that he had seen some blood in his stool, and Dr. Remillard performed a rectal examination on Scott. Dr. Remillard concluded from that exam that Scott's prostate was firm and normal, so he recommended that Scott get a colonoscopy to determine if there was a problem with his colon. Scott also had blood work done during the 2009 visit. At that time, Scott's PSA level was 14.3, which Dr. Remillard and Kimberlee's medical experts agreed was an elevated PSA level for a 49-year-old. A pivotal factual dispute in this case centered on when Dr. Remillard and Helena Family Medicine first informed Scott of the 2009 elevated PSA level. Scott next visited the clinic in 2011. During that visit, Dr. Remillard did not tell Scott about his 2009 elevated PSA level, but he did perform a rectal examination, and he determined that Scott's prostate was enlarged. Dr. Remillard diagnosed Scott with benign prostatic hyperplasia, and he prescribed Scott some medication for the condition. Scott was ultimately diagnosed with stage IV metastatic prostate cancer; he died as a result of the cancer on March 6, 2014. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Kimberlee presented competent expert-witness testimony regarding the standard of care and causation. In the interest of judicial economy, the Court also addressed other rulings by the trial court challenged by Kimberlee in this appeal. Concerning those rulings, Kimberlee's CMA nursing expert should have been permitted to testify, but the trial court properly excluded Kimberlee's counsel from directly questioning Dr. Remillard about his failure to tell Scott about his 2009 abnormal PSA lab-test result during his April 7, 2011, visit to the clinic. The judgment of the trial court was reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial. View "Spencer v. Remillard" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court holding that Defendants had not breached the standard of care, holding that the trial court erred in allowing Defendants to raise and argue the issue of non-party negligence and to submit the issue to the jury.Defendant-physicians in this case denied liability but asserted, as an alternative causation theory, that the negligence of a non-party physician was a cause of Plaintiff's injuries. At issue was whether a jury may consider whether a non-party physician was negligence and caused injury to Plaintiff without the expert testimony necessary to establish medical negligence when medical negligence is raised as a defense. The Supreme Court held (1) expert testimony is required to establish medical negligence and causation when such matters are outside the common knowledge of jurors; (2) to the extent a defendant elects to raise non-party medical negligence as part of its defense, the defendant has the burden to produce admissible evidence to allow a jury to make a finding on that issue; and (3) the trial court erred in allowing Defendant to raise and argue the issue of non-party negligence under these circumstances. View "American Radiology Services, LLC v. Reiss" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court excluding from evidence a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and granting a directed verdict in favor of Neurosurgical Institute of Kentucky, P.S.C., holding that any error committed by the trial court was harmless.Plaintiff, in his capacity as administrator of the decedent's estate and in his individual capacity, filed a medical negligence suit against Defendants, a private neurosurgery practice, a neurosurgical resident, a hospital, and other medical professionals. During discovery, the hospital filed a motion in liming to exclude the RCA report as a subsequent remedial measure under Ky. R. Evid. 407. The trial court granted the motion. After a trial, the court granted a directed verdict in favor of the defendants. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court erred in excluding the RCA under Rule 407, but the error was harmless; (2) the court of appeals' Rule 407 analysis was not improper, and the RCA was properly excluded under Ky. R. Evid. 403; and (3) the trial court did not err in excluding the RCA when offered for impeachment purposes. View "Thomas v. University Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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The wrongful-death beneficiares and estate of Carolyn Smith appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Hardy Wilson Memorial Hospital (now known as Copiah County Medical Center). The trial court found the Smiths failed to produce evidence sufficient to show Carolyn Smith's injuries or death was caused by any negligence of the Hospital's nursing staff. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court concurred with the trial court and affirmed judgment. View "Smith v. Hardy Wilson Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that Plaintiff could not rely on the savings statute when he filed this action just before the expiration of the statute of limitations but did not obtain service within one year or dismiss the action during that period.Although Plaintiff had initially filed this lawsuit within the limitations period, he neither obtained service on Dr. Eric Humphreys within one year, nor did he dismiss his lawsuit during that time. As a consequence, the trial court ruled that Dr. Humphreys was dismissed with prejudice from the lawsuit because Plaintiff's claims against him were time barred. Concluding that the remaining defendants could only be vicariously liable, the court found that any liability of those parties was extinguished. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the savings statute applied to Plaintiff's claim against Dr. Humphreys. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because there was neither a dismissal otherwise than on the merits nor the filing of a new action, the savings statute did not apply, and Plaintiff's claim was barred by the statute of limitations. View "Moore v. Mount Carmel Health System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court against Plaintiff on his medical malpractice claims against LDS Hospital, holding that the trial court did not err in instructing the jury.While undergoing abdominal surgery Plaintiff suffered a cardiac arrest, and his heart did not beat for more than fifteen minutes. Plaintiff suffered brain damage as a result. At trial, LDS Hospital moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the action was time barred. After a bifurcated trial, the jury found that Plaintiff discovered or should have discovered his legal injury more than two years before he commenced the action, and therefore, the action was barred by the statute of limitations. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court incorrectly instructed the jury on "discovery of legal injury." The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, when viewed as a whole, the trial court's instructions to the jury correctly stated the law relevant to discovery of a legal injury. View "Jensen v. IHC Health Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Machicote, a Wisconsin inmate underwent surgery to remove damaged bone, tissue, and cartilage in his ankle after he suffered an injury while playing basketball in the prison yard. After the procedure, the surgeon supplied Machicote with oxycodone and warned that he would be in “extreme pain” when the medication wore off. He was discharged with instructions recommending narcotic-strength painkillers every six hours. At the prison, Dr. Herweijer ordered Tylenol #3, as needed every six hours for three days. Because of Nurse Stecker’s scheduling of the doses, Machicote woke at 3:30 a.m. in “excruciating pain.” Machicote continued to have trouble accessing the medication that had been ordered; the prison’s medication distribution schedule did not match Machicote’s prescription. Concerned about pain during the night, Machicote was told: “That’s how it will go.” Machicote’s medication order ran out completely and he began experiencing agonizing pain around the clock. Nurse Stecker refused to contact a doctor. Five days later, Dr. Hoffman prescribed him another painkiller, Tramadol. Machicote did not receive the medication for two more days, and his medical records show that the pain required management for several more weeks.In Machicote’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as to the other defendants but vacated in part; a factual issue remains as to the deliberate indifference of Nurse Stecker. View "Machicote v. Roethlisberger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that an internist proffered by Plaintiff to provide standard of care expert testimony against three hospitalists was properly qualified under N.C. R. Evid. 702(b) and that the evidence was sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact that the hospitalists proximately caused Plaintiff's injury.Plaintiff brought this medical malpractice action seeking recovery for the decedent's injury and death. The only claims remaining arose from the hospitalists' alleged medical negligence. During discovery, Plaintiff provided the deposition of Dr. Paul Genecin as expert testimony on the standard of care. The trial court concluded that Dr. Genecin did not qualify as an expert and, because Dr. Genecin was Plaintiff's only standard of care expert, granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Dr. Genecin was competent to testify. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Dr. Genecin was qualified to testify to the standard of care, and his testimony sufficiently forecasted proximate cause; and (2) Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence of proximate cause, and therefore, summary judgment was inappropriate. View "Da Silva v. WakeMed" on Justia Law