Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Darren Hulbert, a self-represented indigent inmate, appealed the dismissal of his medical malpractice suit Richard Cross, M.D. Dr. Cross performed a radial head resection and arthroplasty on Hulbert’s right elbow. Hulbert alleged that Dr. Cross negligently failed to tighten a screw in the implant, which resulted in the screw coming loose and damaging Hulbert’s elbow joint, cartilage, and surrounding tissue. To help establish his claim, Hulbert filed a motion for appointment of legal counsel and a medical expert. The trial court denied the motion and subsequently found that Hulbert could not rebut the declaration of Dr. Cross’s medical expert without providing medical expert evidence of his own. On this basis, the trial court granted Dr. Cross’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, Hulbert contended: (1) he was deprived of meaningful access to the courts because the trial court denied him the assistance of a medical expert while requiring a medical expert to establish a triable issue of material fact; (2) the trial court failed to exercise its discretion by considering all of the remedies available to ensure that he had meaningful access to the courts; (3) the trial court erred in determining there was no triable issue of material fact because the loose screw itself did not prove medical negligence; (4) the trial court erred in refusing to appoint legal counsel; (5) Dr. Cross did not provide informed consent prior to the procedure; (6) the declaration by Dr. Cross’s medical expert was insufficient to overcome a presumption of negligence because Dr. Cross’s operation notes failed to show compliance with the implant manufacturer’s instructions. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial did not properly exercise informed discretion with respect to ensuring access to the courts when it denied Hulbert’s motion for appointment of a medical expert. The trial court’s statement that it lacked authority to appoint legal counsel required remand to allow the trial court to consider and clarify which remedies were appropriate in this case to protect Hulbert’s right to meaningful access to the court. View "Hulbert v. Cross" on Justia Law

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Inmate Robinson was offered new medication. Unaware of any prescription, he questioned the officer who gave it to him and followed up with the health services manager and others. Despite learning that there was no record of any new prescription for him, Robinson took the medication. Days later, Robinson passed out. A nurse advised him to keep taking the medication. Robinson then was sent to an outside hospital, where doctors surmised that he might be allergic to the medication. The prescription was meant for a different inmate. Robinson sued. The defendants moved for summary judgment; 20 days after his deadline for filing a brief in opposition, Robinson filed a brief to support his own request for summary judgment, supplemented by a proposed statement of facts. He did not respond to the defendants’ statement of facts. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court permissibly applied Eastern District of Wisconsin Local Rule 56(b)(4) to deem the defendants’ facts unopposed, regardless of Robinson’s later filings. Based on those facts, no reasonable jury could find deliberate indifference to a serious medical risk. Nor could a jury conclude that the health‐services manager violated his constitutional rights by failing to intervene. Robinson’s state‐law negligence claims were barred by Wisconsin’s notice‐of‐claim statute. The defendants were not entitled to summary judgment based only on Robinson's failure to timely respond. View "Robinson v. Waterman" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court granting Plaintiff's motion for a new trial after the jury found that Defendant breached the duty of care owed to the patient in this case, holding that the trial justice erred by replacing the jury's determination with her own.After Patricia Kinney died from complications related to her battle with ovarian cancer, Plaintiff brought this action, asserting that Defendant negligently performed a surgical procedure and post-surgical follow-up. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on the issue of negligence and for Defendant on the issue of proximate cause. The trial justice granted Plaintiff's motion for a new trial, finding that the verdict was against the fair preponderance of the evidence and failed to do substantial justice. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that reasonable minds could have come to different conclusions on the question of whether Plaintiff had met her burden of establishing that Defendant's breach was the cause of Kinney's death. View "Joplin v. Cassin" on Justia Law

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In this healthcare liability action filed by a surgery patient and her husband, the Supreme Court reversed the holding of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court applying the statutory cap to Plaintiffs separately, holding that the language to Tenn. Code Ann. 29-39-102 allowed both plaintiffs to recover only $750,000 in the aggregate for noneconomic damages.The patient brought this negligence action against defendant physicians for noneconomic damages, arguing that a portion of a Gelport device was unintentionally left in her body after surgery. The patient's husband claimed damages for loss of consortium in the same action. The jury awarded the patient $4 million in damages and awarded her spouse $500,000 in damages for loss of consortium. The trial court initially entered a judgment of $750,000 in the aggregate in favor of both Plaintiffs but subsequently granted Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend. The court then applied the statutory cap to each plaintiff separately, awarding the patient $750,000 and her husband $500,000. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 29-389-102 creates a single cap on noneconomic damages that includes those awarded to the injured spouse, as well as those damages award to the other spouse for a derivative loss of consortium claim. View "Yebuah v. Center For Urological Treatment, PLC" on Justia Law

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A physician's professional conduct was examined by the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision. During the disciplinary proceeding a stipulated protective order was entered by the Board. The professional complaint against the physician was dismissed, and approximately two years later the physician requested the Board modify its protective order to allow the physician to use three documents in a different legal proceeding. The Board refused, and the physician appealed. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held: (1) the stipulated blanket protective order making all documents in the administrative proceeding subject to the order and prohibiting their use in any other legal proceeding was contrary to the public policy expressed by the Oklahoma Open Records Act and the Oklahoma Discovery Code; and (2) the physician's claim seeking access to the initial report of misconduct was not properly before the Court. View "State ex rel. Okla. St. Bd. of Medical Licensure & Supervision v. Rivero" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the cap on all damages other than medical care and punitive damages under the Medical Malpractice Act (MMA), violated the right to trial by jury guaranteed by Article II, Section 12 of the New Mexico Constitution. Plaintiff Susan Siebert successfully sued her doctor, Rebecca Okun, M.D., and Women’s Specialists of New Mexico, Ltd. (WSNM) for medical malpractice under the MMA. Following the return of the jury’s verdict, Defendants Dr. Okun and WSNM moved to reduce the jury award of $2,600,000 to conform with the $600,000 cap on all nonmedical and nonpunitive damages in MMA actions. The district court denied Defendants’ motion, concluding that the MMA nonmedical, nonpunitive damages cap infringed the state constitutional right to a trial by jury. The Supreme Court held that the MMA nonmedical, nonpunitive damages cap did not violate Article II, Section 12, and reversed the district court’s denial of Defendants’ motion to conform the judgment in accordance with the statutory cap. View "Siebert v. Okun" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court awarding costs to Defendants under Va. Code 8.01-380 after the entry of a nonsuit order, holding that, under Rule 1:1, the written order awarding costs was untimely and must be vacated.Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice suit against Defendants. After the circuit court granted Defendants' motion to disqualify Plaintiff's expert witness, Plaintiff voluntarily nonsuited the case. Twenty days after entry of the nonsuit order, the court stated from the bench that it would award costs to Defendants. However, the court's written order awarding costs was entered more than twenty-one days after entry of the nonsuit order. The Supreme Court held that the order was void because it was entered more than twenty-one days following entry of the nonsuit order. View "Kosko v. Ramser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition directing the circuit court to transfer venue of this third-party medical negligence action from Tucker County to Monongalia County, holding that this cause of action arose in Monongalia County, and therefore venue for the underlying action, as pleaded, lay solely in Monongalia County.Emily Heckler stabbed her stepmother Marion to death two days after she was discharged from Chestnut Ridge Center in Morgantown, where she had received psychiatric treatment. Mark Heckler, Emily's father and the administrator of Marion's estate, brought this claim in Tucker County under W. Va. Code 55-7B-9b of the Medical Professional Liability Act against Petitioners - West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. and West Virginia University Board of Governors. Heckler filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue or, in the alternative, to transfer venue to Monongalia County. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding (1) under W. Va Code 55-7B-9b, venue is established on where the cause of action arose; and (2) venue is only proper in the county in which the healthcare was rendered with allegedly willful and wanton or reckless disregard of a foreseeable risk of harm to third persons. View "State ex rel. W. Va. University Hospitals, Inc. v. Honorable Nelson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Joanna Grabowski brought claims for medical malpractice against Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Southern California Permanente Medical Group, and various associated physicians (collectively, Kaiser). The claims were heard by an arbitrator, pursuant to a contractual arbitration agreement. After a contested hearing, the arbitrator awarded judgment in favor of Kaiser. Grabowski petitioned the trial court to vacate the arbitration award, alleging: (1) the arbitrator committed misconduct, and revealed disqualifying bias, by engaging in an ex parte communication with Kaiser’s counsel about Grabowski’s self-represented status; (2) the arbitrator failed to disclose two matters involving Kaiser where he was selected as an arbitrator; and (3) the arbitrator improperly denied Grabowski’s request for a continuance of the arbitration hearing. The trial court found that “the arbitrator’s conduct did not rise to a level that substantially prejudiced [Grabowski’s] rights” and dismissed her petition. Grabowski appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal agrees the award should have been vacated. The Court concluded the arbitrator committed misconduct on several levels, at least one required vacating the arbitration award. The ex parte communication between the arbitrator and Kaiser’s counsel was recorded by Grabowski’s mother as part of her effort to document the arbitration hearing; the audio recording revealed comments by the arbitrator making light of Grabowski’s self- representation and her inability, in the arbitrator’s view, to effectively represent herself. The arbitrator volunteered these comments to Kaiser’s counsel, ex parte, and “they shared a hearty laugh about Grabowski’s perceived shortcomings as an advocate.” Because the arbitrator was aware of this communication and did not disclose it to Grabowski, the award had to be vacated. View "Grabowski v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals vacating a jury award of $500,000 against Dr. Shabbir Choudhry for loss of household services, which Petitioner alleged she would have received from her adult daughter, who died after having received medical treatment by Dr. Choudhry, holding that the court of appeals did not err.In vacating the jury award, the court of appeals held that, in a wrongful death action, a parent could recover economic damages for loss of household services but that Petitioner had presented insufficient evidence to have the claim submitted to the jury. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in order for a parent of a deceased child to recover pecuniary damages for household services under the Wrongful Death Act, Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. 3-901 to -904, the parent must present evidence not only that they reasonably expected to receive services from the adult child but that the child intended to continue providing those services. View "Fowlkes v. Choudhry" on Justia Law