Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the traditional but-for factual causation standard is the appropriate standard to be employed in medical malpractice cases, including those involving multiple alleged causes, and discontinued the use of the substantial factor test, which the Court concluded was unnecessarily confusing.Plaintiffs brought this suit claiming negligence, failure to obtain informed consent and loss of consortium after their family member died from complications arising from chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. The jury returned a verdict for Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the challenged instructions in this case were proper because the jury was instructed using traditional but-for causation principles. View "Doull v. Foster" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court taxing Appellant with costs related to expert witnesses used at a jury trial that Appellant lost in his medical malpractice suit against Appellees, holding that certain court costs exceeded the court's authority.After the verdict was rendered, the district court taxed Appellant with costs related to expert witnesses used at trial. On appeal, Appellant challenged the taxation of those costs. The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court's cost award with respect to Dr. LaRusso, Appellees' expert witness, exceeded the parameters of Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons, Inc., 482 U.S. 437 (1987); and (2) the remainder of the district court's order on costs was appropriate. View "Morales-Figueroa v. Valdes, D.C." on Justia Law

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In 2011, Dr. Natwarlal Ramani, M.D. performed a colonoscopy on William King. At a follow up visit on April 26, 2011, Dr. Ramani recommended that King return for his next colonoscopy in three to five years. King followed that advice and returned to Dr. Ramani for another colonoscopy five years later, in 2016. The March 2016 colonoscopy could not be completed because a cancerous growth had formed in King’s colon. He died a few months later. In April 2018, the Plaintiffs, Monica King Anderson, the Estate of William King, Stephanie King, Heather Guerke, and Amber Withrow, filed this wrongful death action, claiming that Dr. Ramani was negligent in advising King that he did not need a follow-up colonoscopy until as long as five years after the one done in April 2011. Given King’s medical history, they alleged, the standard of care required Dr. Ramani to advise King to return for his next colonoscopy in three years. The negligent advice, they further alleged, resulted in a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer which ultimately led to King’s death. Defendants-appellants, Dr. Ramani, GI Associates of Delaware, P.A., and Advance Endoscopy Center, LLC, moved for summary judgment, arguing Plaintiffs' action was barred by the statute of limitations. The Superior Court found that the continuous negligent medical treatment doctrine applied to the facts of this case, and held that under that doctrine the statute did not begin to run until March 26, 2016, thus making Plaintiffs' suit timely filed. The Delaware Supreme Court granted certiorari review of the Superior Court's ruling. After review, the Supreme Court the continuous negligent medical treatment doctrine did not apply. The Court rejected Plaintiffs' contention the Court should have adopted a limited time-of-discovery rule in cancer cases. Plaintiffs' constitutional arguments were not ripe unless and until it was determined this case was, in fact, barred by the statute of limitations. "On remand, the Defendants are free to pursue their statute of limitations defense. If they do, the Superior Court should make a factual determination as to when the date of injury occurred and apply § 6856 to that finding accordingly. If the Superior Court determines that the action is barred by [18 Del. C. section 6856], the Plaintiffs may present their constitutional arguments there." View "GI Associates of Delaware v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed in part and affirmed in part the appeal of the circuit court's order granting motions to dismiss filed by hospital defendants in this medical malpractice action, holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's complaint.Plaintiff sued Catholic Health Initiatives, St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, and First Initiatives Insurance Company, Ltd., alleging that he fell out of his hospital bed and fractured his right hip. The circuit court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss based on Plaintiff's failure to toll the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to comply with the notice portion of the tolling statute. View "Williams v. St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Cutchin’s wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident that occurred when another driver, Watson, age 72, struck their vehicle. Cutchin alleges that Watson’s driving ability was impaired by medications she had been prescribed, including an opioid. Cutchin filed a malpractice suit against Watson’s healthcare providers, charging them with negligence for an alleged failure to warn Watson that she should not be driving given the known motor and cognitive effects of those medications. After the providers and their malpractice insurer agreed to a settlement of $250,000, the maximum amount for which they can be held individually liable under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act (MMA), Cutchin sought further relief from the Patient’s Compensation Fund, which acts as an excess insurer. The Fund argued that the MMA does not apply to Cutchin’s claim and that he is barred from seeking excess damages from the Fund. The district court agreed.The Seventh Circuit certified to the Indiana Supreme Court the questions: Whether Ithe MMA prohibits the Fund from contesting the Act’s applicability to a claim after the claimant concludes a court‐approved settlement with a qualified healthcare provider, and whether the MMA applies to claims brought against individuals (survivors) who did not receive medical care from the provider, but who are injured as a result of the provider’s negligence in providing medical treatment to someone else. View "Cutchin v. Robertson" on Justia Law

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After a surgeon competently performed a gastric re-sleeving surgery on plaintiff, she filed suit against him for negligence in recommending gastric re-sleeve surgery as a viable course of treatment and in not obtaining her informed consent to the surgery.The Court of Appeal held that a physician may be liable for negligently recommending a course of treatment if (1) that course stems from a misdiagnosis of the patient's underlying medical condition, or (2) all reasonable physicians in the relevant medical community would agree that the probable risks of that treatment outweigh its probable benefits. The court also held that a patient's informed consent to a negligently recommended course of treatment does not negate the physician's liability for his negligence in recommending it. In this case, although the trial court erred by instructing the jury that plaintiff's informed consent negated any liability for the surgeon's recommendation, the court concluded that this error did not prejudice her case because her negligent recommendation theory should never have gone to the jury in the first place. In this case, the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, does not support the conclusion that the surgeon was negligent in recommending that plaintiff undergo the gastric re-sleeve surgery where she suffered from morbid obesity. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Flores v. Liu" on Justia Law

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In 2015, inmate Peterson suffered from genital warts. Davida, a Stateville Correctional Center physician employed by Wexford, prescribed a topical medication (Podocon-25), which is caustic and should be applied sparingly, then removed thoroughly. PODOCON-25's packaging states that “PODOCON-25© IS TO BE APPLIED ONLY BY A PHYSICIAN” and warns of multiple potential “ADVERSE REACTIONS.” Davida did not apply the Podocon-25, nor did the nurses, who instructed Peterson to apply the treatment himself. He did so and suffered personal injuries.In 2016, Peterson filed a pro se complaint against Davida, the nurses, and Illinois Department of Corrections officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983. He alleged that the officer-defendants destroyed his shower pass permits, issued as part of his treatment, or failed to intervene to correct the situation. The court granted Peterson leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his claims except as to three correctional officers. After obtaining counsel, Peterson filed an amended complaint, adding Wexford. The parties stipulated to dismissal without prejudice on January 25, 2018. On January 21, 2019, Peterson filed the operative complaint, claiming deliberate indifference under section 1983 and negligence under Illinois law against Davida, the nurses, and Wexford. The district court dismissed, finding that the complaint failed to sufficiently allege that the defendants had the requisite state of mind for deliberate indifference and that Peterson’s negligence claims were untimely because his 2016 complaint did not contain those allegations; the relation-back doctrine governs only amendments to a complaint, not a new filing.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the section 1983 claims but reversed as to the negligence claims. The court did not consider 735 ILCS 5/13-217, under which plaintiffs have an “absolute right to refile their complaint within one year” of its voluntary dismissal. View "Peterson v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law

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After defendant was sued for medical malpractice in state court, he removed the case to federal court and moved to substitute the United States as defendant. Defendant claimed that the alleged malpractice occurred within the scope of his employment at a federally deemed community health center, entitling him to immunity and the substitution of the United States as the defendant under the Federally Supported Health Centers Assistance Act (FSHCAA). The district court concluded that some of the alleged malpractice occurred outside the scope of defendant's employment because he had billed for some of his services privately, in contravention of the Federal Tort Claims Act Health Center Policy Manual. Therefore, the district court concluded that defendant was not covered by the FSHCAA implementing regulation. The district court denied substitution of the United States as to that conduct, remanding the case in part to state court. The government argues that the Second Circuit lacks jurisdiction to entertain this appeal because defendant appealed from an unreviewable remand order.The Second Circuit held that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1447(d), remand orders are unreviewable except in cases that were originally removed under 28 U.S.C. 1442 or 1443. The court concluded that, because defendant removed this case under section 1442, the court is not barred from reviewing the district court's remand order. On the merits, the court concluded that defendant was acting within the scope of his employment under the relevant law—New York law—for the acts for which he billed privately. Therefore, the FTCA Manual is not entitled to deference to the extent that it provides otherwise. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Razmzan v. United States" on Justia Law

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On January 29, 2009, Glenn suffered a partial tear of his Achilles tendon. On February 17, Glenn sought treatment from Dr. Treacy at Rezin Orthopedics. Glenn was 42 years old and borderline obese. Dr. Treacy’s treatment plan included placing Glenn’s lower right leg in a plantar flexion position, set in a plaster cast for six weeks. Dr. Treacy memorialized his recommendation for Glenn to return for a follow-up appointment in two weeks in an invoice. Glenn required an appointment within a day or two for cast placement because he had driven himself to the appointment. Dr. Treacy directed the receptionist (Decker) to schedule a two-week follow-up appointment. Decker scheduled Glenn’s casting appointment for February 19 at another office. After Glenn’s leg was casted, the receptionist, Hare, scheduled Glenn’s follow-up appointment for March 13, more than three weeks after his initial appointment. On February 25, Glenn telephoned Rezin. The receptionist, Popplewell, rescheduled Glenn’s follow-up visit for March 12. On March 8, Glenn died of a pulmonary embolism.In a wrongful death and survival action, a jury returned a defense verdict. Glenn’s administrator appealed only the verdict in favor of Rezin. The appellate court reversed with directions to enter judgment n.o.v. in favor of the estate. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the verdict. The evidence supported a conclusion that Rezin’s failures did not proximately cause Glenn’s death. Glenn’s death was not a reasonably foreseeable result of Rezin's failure to schedule his follow-up appointment within two weeks of his initial appointment. View "Steed v. Rezin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, S.C." on Justia Law

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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