Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the motion in limine and motion for summary judgment brought by Defendants, Doctors' Center Hospital Bayamon and Dr. Benito Hernandez-Diaz (together, the Hospital), holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Plaintiff brought a medical malpractice action on behalf of her child and against the Hospital claiming that the Hospital failed to treat the child's oxygen-loss at birth, causing him serious cognitive injury. At issue was the decision of the district court granting the Hospital's motion to strike Plaintiff's expert's report and testimony on the grounds that it was speculative and otherwise failed to conform to established rules for such reports. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in excluding the expert testimony was unreliable; (2) did not err in granting summary judgment for the Hospital; and (3) did not err in denying Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. View "Gonzalez-Arroyo v. Doctors' Center Hospital Bayamon, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Four years after appellant-plaintiff Charlie Price filed a medical negligence/wrongful death action because his wife died from a stroke following surgery, the trial court dismissed the case for failure to prosecute. Price moved for new trial arguing that he was denied due process because he was not given adequate notice of the hearing which resulted in the trial court's dismissal of his lawsuit. The trial court denied the motion for new trial, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the trial court. After its review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that because plaintiff was not afforded adequate notice of the hearing in which the trial court dismissed the case, due process required that the dismissal be vacated. View "Price v. Zhang" on Justia Law

by
This case presented the questions of whether and how Alaska Statute 09.55.548(b) applied when the claimant’s losses were compensated by an employer’s self-funded health benefit plan governed by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Alaska Supreme Court concluded that an ERISA plan did not fall within the statute’s “federal program” exception. Therefore AS 09.55.548(b) required a claimant’s damages award to be reduced by the amount of compensation received from an ERISA plan. But the Supreme Court also concluded that the distinction the statute draws between different types of medical malpractice claimants was not fairly and substantially related to the statute’s purpose of ensuring claimants do not receive a double recovery — an award of damages predicated on losses that were already compensated by a collateral source. "Because insurance contracts commonly require the insured to repay the insurer using the proceeds of any tort recovery, claimants with health insurance are scarcely more likely to receive a double recovery than other malpractice claimants. The statute therefore violates the equal protection guarantee of the Alaska Constitution." View "Knolmayer, et al. v. McCollum" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed from a judgment entered in favor of Defendant, on Plaintiff’s action for medical malpractice after the trial court denied her motion under Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79 (Batson) and People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258 (Wheeler). At issue on appeal is whether under California law an attorney may properly strike a prospective juror based on the disability of the juror’s family member. Historically Batson/Wheeler motions have been analyzed, as the trial court did here, in terms of whether the justification for excusing a prospective juror is race-neutral. However, in 2015 the Legislature expanded the scope of cognizable groups protected under Batson/Wheeler by its enactment of Assembly Bill No. 87 (2015-2016 Reg. Sess.) Section 1 (Assembly Bill 87).   On appeal, Plaintiff argued that Defendant’s striking of the two prospective jurors based on the disabilities of their family members was itself based on protected characteristics. The Second Appellate District reversed the trial court's judgment. The court explained that there is no dispute that the justifications provided for excusing the two jurors were their association with disabled family members. Defendant’s attorney stated that because one of the juror’s children was disabled, Defendant’s attorney “felt that this particular juror may be too sympathetic to this particular plaintiff to make a reasonable decision on the evidence.” Accordingly, the Second Appellate District agreed with Plaintiff and reversed the trial court’s ruling and direct the trial court to vacate its order denying the Batson/Wheeler motion and to enter a new order granting the motion and setting the matter for a new trial. View "Unzueta v. Akopyan" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals determining that the prior notice of events exclusion (Exclusion 15) contained in the insurance policies applied to deny the coverage sought by King's Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) for claims made against it and that Insurers were entitled to recoupment of expenses, holding that the court of appeals erred as to both issues.Multiple medical malpractice claims were asserted against KDMC alleging unnecessary cardiac operations and lack of informed consent, among other allegations. Insurers subsequently filed a declaratory action in circuit court to determine their rights and coverage under the relevant policies. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of KDMC. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that Exclusion 15 applied to bar professional liability and excess coverage for the underlying litigation and that Insurers were entitled to recoupment of their expenses thus far in defending the litigation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Exclusion 15 did not bar coverage; and (2) the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction to rule on recoupment. View "Ashland Hospital Corp. v. Darwin Select Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The parties to this appeal were: (1) plaintiffs in 20 separate medical malpractice lawsuits filed against two doctors and a medical spa; and (2) defendants in those lawsuits (i.e., the two doctors and the medical spa). Plaintiffs and Defendants resolved the underlying lawsuits by entering into a global settlement agreement pursuant to which Defendants agreed to pay Plaintiffs $575,000 in two installments. If the installments were not paid on time, liquidated damages would be assessed at the rate of $50,000 per month and $1,644 per day, up to a cap of $1.5 million. When Defendants failed to pay either installment, Plaintiffs moved to enforce the settlement agreement, including the liquidated damages provision. Defendants opposed the motion, arguing the liquidated damages provision was unreasonable and thus invalid pursuant to California Civil Code section 1671(b). The trial court found Defendants failed to establish the provision was unreasonable under the circumstances, and it entered judgment against Defendants in the amount of $1,393,084 (the settlement amount of $575,000 plus $818,084 in liquidated damages). Defendants appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Gormley v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

by
Premier Plastic Surgery, P.C. ("Premier") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Premier's motion for a change of venue in this medical-malpractice action brought by plaintiff Deborah Bush, and to enter an order transferring the action to the Shelby Circuit Court. Premier offered cosmetic and reconstructive surgery at its medical facility located in Shelby County. Bush went to Premier's medical facility to receive a consultation from Dr. Peter Van Hoy. It is undisputed that all of Bush's treatment by Dr. Van Hoy occurred at Premier's medical facility. In December 2017, Dr. Van Hoy died. Because he was Premier's sole shareholder, director, and owner, Premier was dissolved in September 2018. In June 2019, Bush filed suit at the Jefferson Circuit Court relating to her surgical procedure and treatment by Dr. Van Hoy. Bush's complaint also alleged that she was a resident of Jefferson County. Premier denied all allegations and argued that because the surgical procedure and treatment at issue in Bush's action occurred at Premier's medical facility in Shelby County, venue was proper in Shelby County. In her response to Premier's motion, Bush did not dispute that Shelby County was the proper venue for the action. Instead, she argued that because Premier's motion was filed almost three years after the litigation began and only three weeks before the scheduled trial, the motion cannot be deemed timely. The Supreme Court concurred that Premier's challenge to venue had been waived and denied the petition for mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Premier Plastic Surgery, P.C." on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified a question of law to the Alabama Supreme Court. Dr. Dino Ferrante, a gastroenterologist, prescribed LIALDA, which is manufactured by Shire U.S., Inc., and Shire, LLC (referred to collectively as "Shire"), to help patient Mark Blackburn with his Crohn's disease. "LIALDA is the brand name for Shire's mesalamine drug, which is an anti-inflammatory drug specifically aimed at the gut. LIALDA is not approved by the FDA to treat Crohn's, but it is approved to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn's 'sister' disease." After taking LIALDA for between 12 to 16 months, Blackburn discovered that he had developed kidney disease, specifically advanced chronic interstitial nephritis, which had resulted in irreversible scarring and had diminished his kidney function to 20% of normal capacity. As a result, Blackburn is awaiting a kidney transplant. The federal appellate court asked: (1) consistent with the learned intermediary doctrine, may a pharmaceutical company's duty to warn include a duty to provide instructions about how to mitigate warned-of risks?; and (2) might a plaintiff establish that a failure to warn caused his injuries by showing that his doctor would have adopted a different course of testing or mitigation, even though he would have prescribed the same drug? The Supreme Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Blackburn v. Shire U.S., Inc., et al." on Justia Law

by
The jury in this medical malpractice case awarded plaintiff Karen Cowher a lump sum amount of damages under the Pennsylvania Survival Act, and did not itemize the amount of pain and suffering damages or other components of its aggregate award. The Superior Court granted the defendants Dr. Sobhan Kodali, St. Luke’s University Health Network, and St. Luke’s Cardiology Associates a new trial on survival damages based on their claim the admission of plaintiff’s expert opinion testimony on pain and suffering was erroneous. The narrow question the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed in this appeal was whether defendants waived their right to a new trial under the general verdict rule. This rule applies and mandates waiver when a general verdict rests upon both valid and invalid grounds, and the litigant challenging the verdict failed to request a special verdict slip that would have clarified the basis for the verdict. The Supreme Court concluded these were the circumstances here. Accordingly, the Supreme Court held defendants waived a new trial under the general verdict rule and reversed the Superior Court’s order for a new trial. View "Estate of Cowher. v. Kodali, et al" on Justia Law

by
Appellant is a severely disabled child whose congenital abnormalities went undetected during his mother’s pregnancy until after viability. Appellant sued various medical providers for wrongful life, settling with one in 2018. The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) asserted a lien on Appellant's settlement to recover what DHCS paid for Appellant's care. The trial court awarded DHCS the full amount of the lien and Appellant appealed.The Second Appellate District reversed. Although the court rejected Appellant's claim that the DHCS lien is preempted by federal law and that there is no substantial evidence that Appellant's settlement included payments for past medical expenses, the Second Appellate District found that the trial court erred by failing to distinguish between past medical expenses and other damages. View "Daniel C. v. White Memorial Medical Center" on Justia Law