Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

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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

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The case revolves around a fatal collision that occurred in May 2016 when Lyle Lima, who was legally blind, drove his truck into a horse-drawn hay trailer on a highway, resulting in the death of one passenger and injuries to others. In April 2015, a doctor at Dakota Eye Institute had declared Lima legally blind and instructed him not to drive. In April 2016, another doctor from the same institute, Dr. Briana Bohn, examined Lima and advised him not to drive at night and only minimally during the day, specifically avoiding highways. The plaintiffs, injured parties and their representatives, claimed that Dr. Bohn was liable for medical malpractice as Lima's eyesight was still below the minimum vision standards required to operate a vehicle in North Dakota.The plaintiffs initially filed a suit against the defendants, which was dismissed by the district court. However, the Supreme Court of North Dakota reversed and remanded the decision. On remand, the defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case showing a breach of duty and that Dr. Bohn did not proximately cause Lima’s economic injuries. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding that no reasonable jury could find Dr. Bohn proximately caused Lyle Lima’s injury.The Supreme Court of North Dakota affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that Dr. Bohn had clearly instructed Lima not to drive on highways, and the accident had occurred on a highway. The court concluded that the plaintiffs had failed to present competent admissible evidence to raise an issue of fact, and thus, the district court had correctly granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. View "Cichos v. Dakota Eye Institute, P.C." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Richard Rodgers, a prisoner with a history of scoliosis and back pain, had steel rods implanted in his back prior to his incarceration. During his time in prison, the rods broke, but this went undetected for over a year due to two radiologists misreading his x-rays. The prison's primary care physician, Dr. William Rankin, discovered the broken rods and arranged for corrective surgery. Rodgers sued the radiologists and Dr. Rankin, alleging violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.The district court dismissed Rodgers' claims against the radiologists, finding that he did not state a viable constitutional claim against them. The court allowed Rodgers to proceed against Dr. Rankin but eventually granted summary judgment in his favor. The court found that Rodgers had not provided evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find that Dr. Rankin had violated the Eighth Amendment by acting with deliberate indifference toward Rodgers' serious medical condition.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. The court agreed that Rodgers' allegations against the radiologists amounted to no more than negligence, which is insufficient to state a viable Eighth Amendment claim. Regarding Dr. Rankin, the court found that the evidence would not support a reasonable finding that he acted with deliberate indifference to Rodgers' serious medical condition. The court noted that Dr. Rankin was the one who discovered the radiologists' errors and arranged for Rodgers' corrective surgery. View "Rodgers v. Rankin" on Justia Law

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In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff, Susan Ann Scholle, acting as the personal representative for the Estate of Daniel B. Scholle, sued the defendants, Edward Ehrichs, M.D.; Michael Rauzzino, M.D.; and HCA-HealthONE, LLC. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants' negligence during a back surgery led to severe complications, including cardiac arrest, infection, kidney injuries, stroke, and the need for multiple additional surgeries. The jury found the defendants negligent and awarded the plaintiff over $9 million in economic damages.The defendants argued that the damages should be capped at $1 million, as per the Health Care Availability Act (HCAA). The trial court, however, found good cause to exceed the cap, citing the severity of the plaintiff's injuries, the financial burden on his family, and the unfairness of limiting the damages due to the catastrophic outcome of the surgery.On appeal, the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding that the trial court erred by not considering the plaintiff's insurance contract liabilities in its good cause analysis. The court reasoned that the plaintiff's insurers had waived their subrogation rights, meaning the plaintiff was not responsible for repaying the $4.1 million billed by the hospital.The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado reversed the appellate court's decision, holding that the contract exception to the collateral source statute prohibits a trial court from considering a plaintiff's insurance contract liabilities in determining whether good cause exists to exceed the HCAA's damages cap. The court remanded the case for the trial court to recalculate interest and enter judgment accordingly. View "Scholle v. Ehrichs" on Justia Law

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The case involves a legal malpractice claim brought by Patricia Kappes against Diana Rhodes and Rhodes Law Firm, LLC. Kappes alleges that Rhodes' negligence resulted in the loss of a legal action against a defendant. The legal action in question pertains to the wrongful death of Kappes' mother, Lula M. Tanner, who was a resident at Deseret Health and Rehab at Rock Springs, LLC. Kappes had sought legal recourse for her mother's death against her mother's healthcare providers. However, Rhodes failed to timely file an application with the Wyoming Medical Review Panel and a wrongful death complaint against Ms. Tanner’s healthcare providers, which Kappes alleges constitutes legal malpractice.The District Court of Laramie County, Wyoming, certified four questions to the Supreme Court of Wyoming. These questions pertained to the role of the collectibility of the judgment in the underlying action in legal malpractice cases in Wyoming. The lower court sought to understand whether the collectibility of a judgment is a relevant consideration in a legal malpractice case, which party bears the burden of proving the underlying judgment would have been collectible, whether collectibility must be pled as an affirmative defense, and whether the Collectibility Doctrine is available as a defense to an attorney who has admitted liability.The Supreme Court of Wyoming concluded that the collectibility of the judgment is an essential part of the causation/damages element of a legal malpractice action. The client, in this case, Kappes, has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that any judgment she would have obtained in the underlying action would have been collectible. The court held that the client's burden includes showing she would have obtained a judgment in the underlying action and the judgment would have been collectible. The court did not find it necessary to answer the third and fourth certified questions as they were predicated on the court deciding collectibility is an affirmative defense to be pled and proved by the attorney. View "Kappes v. Rhodes" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the death of a patient, Cindy Essex, who visited Samaritan Hospital's emergency room due to severe shoulder pain. The doctors, who were not employees of the hospital but independent contractors, failed to diagnose her necrotizing fasciitis, a severe soft-tissue infection, leading to her death within 24 hours. The estate of Cindy Essex sought to hold Samaritan Hospital liable for the doctors' alleged negligence under theories of nondelegable duty, inherent function, and agency law principles of delegation.The trial court denied the estate's motion for partial summary judgment concerning Samaritan’s potential vicarious liability for the doctors' alleged negligence. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision, concluding that ostensible agency is the sole basis for holding a hospital vicariously liable for the negligence of nonemployee physicians.The Supreme Court of the State of Washington reversed the Court of Appeals' decision. The court held that statutes and regulations impose nondelegable duties on hospitals concerning the provision of emergency services. A hospital remains responsible for those nondelegable duties regardless of whether it performs those duties through its own staff or contracts with doctors who are independent contractors. The court also found that the estate provided sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment concerning its corporate negligence claim against Samaritan. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "In re Estate of Essex v. Grant County Public Hospital District No. 1" on Justia Law

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Patricia Hanger filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Allison L. Raines and Emergency Physicians of Tidewater, PLC, alleging that they negligently failed to treat her low blood sodium, leading to a seizure and a subsequent fall that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. The defendants argued that the fall could have been caused by other means. A jury sided with Hanger and awarded her $1.6 million, a decision that was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.The Court of Appeals had to decide whether the trial court erred in refusing a jury instruction supporting the defendants' theory of the case. The Court of Appeals held that this question was waived. The defendants argued that they did not waive their right to appeal this question and that they were entitled to the issuance of their proffered jury instruction.The Supreme Court of Virginia disagreed with the Court of Appeals, concluding that the defendants did not waive their argument. The Supreme Court found that the defendants had preserved their objection to the trial court's refusal to issue the jury instruction and had adequately briefed the matter before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the trial court's failure to issue the jury instruction was reversible error and that the Court of Appeals also erred in declining to rule on the matter. The case was reversed and remanded to the Court of Appeals to enter a mandate to the trial court consistent with the opinion. View "Emergency Physicians of Tidewater v. Hanger" on Justia Law