Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

by
Lula McLeod and her husband, John McLeod, appeal the circuit court’s dismissal of their medical-negligence case on grounds that it was filed outside of the limit in the applicable statute of limitations. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that because the record reflected the case was timely filed, the circuit court’s judgment should be reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "McLeod v. Millette" on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether petitioners-parents waived the marital counseling privilege when they filed a claim for damages against the doctors who treated their infant son on the ground that the child was misdiagnosed with cancer. Prior to the alleged misdiagnosis, Brian and Emily Magney had engaged in and completed marital counseling. Defendant doctors sought discovery of the records, but the Magneys filed a motion for a protection order to prevent disclosure given that the records were privileged. The superior court denied the motion and ordered disclosure. analogizing the marital counseling privilege to the psychologist-client privilege, which the Court of Appeals has held is automatically waived when emotional distress is at issue. The Supreme Court reversed the superior court, holding the Magneys did not automatically waive privilege because filing a lawsuit is not one of the enumerated exceptions under the "marital counseling" privilege statute. The Court could not determine on the record whether the privilege was impliedly waived by the actions of the Magneys at this point in litigation. The matter was remanded to the superior court for an in camera review of the records and evidence the parties submitted to determine whether the privilege was impliedly waived. View "Magney v. Pham" on Justia Law

by
When Zhao gave birth to her son “S.,” he suffered an avoidable brachial plexus injury that severely and permanently impaired the function of his right arm. During her pregnancy and S.’s birth, Zhao was attended by an obstetrician employed by a federally supported grant clinic in southern Illinois, who is considered an employee of the U.S. Public Health Service under 42 U.S.C. 233(g), Zhao sued for medical malpractice under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The court found that the obstetrician had been negligent and awarded Zhao, on behalf of S., $2.6 million in lost earnings and $5.5 million in noneconomic damages. S. was not five years old at the time of trial. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the government’s argument that the calculation of S.’s future lost earnings was improperly speculative, given the uncertainties inherent in projecting a five‐year‐old’s career opportunities. The question may have been difficult, but there was no reversible error. The court took a reasonable approach to estimate the lost earnings award based on data provided in expert testimony. The government also challenged the award of non-economic damages as arbitrary and excessive in comparison to similar cases. The court could have provided a more detailed explanation of its comparative process, but its reasoning did not amount to reversible error. View "Zhao v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Lamerle Miles ("Miles"), as the personal representative of the estate of her deceased mother Tameca Miles ("Tameca"), sued Coosa Valley Medical Center ("CVMC") and other named and fictitiously named parties, alleging that they had engaged in negligent, wanton, and outrageous conduct that caused Tameca's death. Miles specifically alleged that multiple CVMC employees had breached the applicable standards of care, resulting in the Sylacauga Police Department removing Tameca from the CVMC emergency room before she was treated for what was ultimately determined to be bacterial meningitis. Miles did not identify any specific CVMC employees in her original complaint, but she later filed a series of amendments substituting Kristen Blanchard, Teshia Gulas, Carla Pruitt, and Kathy Russell for fictitiously named defendants. After being substituted as defendants, the CVMC petitioners moved the trial court to enter summary judgments in their favor, arguing that they had not been named defendants within the two-year period allowed by the statute of limitations governing wrongful-death actions. The Talladega Circuit Court denied those motions, and the CVMC petitioners sought mandamus relief from the Alabama Supreme Court. After review, the Court denied petitions filed by Blanchard, Gulas, and Pruitt. The Court granted Russell's petition because Miles' complaint did not state a cause of action against her. View "Ex parte Kathy Russell, R.N." on Justia Law

by
Angela Williams, as mother and next friend of Li'Jonas Earl Williams, a deceased minor, appealed a judgment as a matter of law entered in favor of the remaining defendants, Dr. Wesley H. Barry, Jr., and Advanced Surgical Associates, P.C. Li'Jonas Williams was a 17-year-old with sickle-cell disease. In June 2014, Li'Jonas went to the emergency room at Southern Regional Medical Center in Georgia ("the Georgia hospital") complaining of back and chest pain. A CT scan performed at the Georgia hospital showed that Li'Jonas had cholelithiasis, which is stones in the gallbladder. Li'Jonas and Williams saw Li'Jonas's pediatrician in Montgomery, Dr. Julius Sadarian. Dr. Sadarian referred Li'Jonas to Dr. Barry for gallbladder removal. Dr. Barry testified that Li'Jonas tolerated the procedure well; that Li'Jonas did not experience any complications during the surgery; and that Li'Jonas had only about 10ccs (two teaspoons) of blood loss during the surgery. Li'Jonas did not experience any problems when he was in the post-anesthesia-care unit or when he was in the outpatient recovery room. On the evening of August 4, 2014, Li'Jonas was found unresponsive at his home. He was transported by ambulance to the emergency; ultimately efforts to revive Li'Jonas were unsuccessful and he died a half hour after admission to the ER. In her fourth amended complaint, Williams asserted a wrongful-death claim based on allegations of medical malpractice pursuant to the Alabama Medical Liability Act against defendants. Judgment was entered in favor of defendants, and Williams appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court found that when the evidence was viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, Williams presented substantial evidence to create a factual dispute requiring resolution by the jury as to the issue whether the surgery performed by Dr. Barry was the proximate cause of Li'Jonas's death. It therefore reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Williams v. Barry" on Justia Law

by
In 2009, D. was delivered at Sharon Hospital by Dr. Gallagher and sustained an injury, allegedly causing her shoulder and arm permanent damage. In 2010-2011, preparing to file D.’s malpractice case, counsel requested records from Sharon and Gallagher, limited temporally to the delivery. Counsel believed that Gallagher was privately employed. Sharon was private; Gallagher was listed on the Sharon website. Counsel did not discover that Gallagher was employed by Primary Health, a “deemed” federal entity eligible for Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), malpractice coverage. D.'s mother had been Gallagher's patient for 10 years and had visited the Primary office. In contracting Gallagher, counsel used the Primary office street address. Gallagher’s responses included the words “Primary Health.” The lawsuit was filed in 2016; Pennsylvania law tolls a minor plaintiff’s action until she turns 18. The government removed the suit to federal court and substituted the government for Gallagher. The district court dismissed the suit against the government for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the FTCA. The case against Sharon returned to state court. After exhausting administrative remedies, counsel refiled the FTCA suit. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as untimely, rejecting a claim that D. was entitled to equitable tolling of the limitations period because counsel had no reason to know that Gallagher was a deemed federal employee or that further inquiry was required. D. failed to show that she diligently pursued her rights and that extraordinary circumstances prevented her from timely filing. View "D.J.S.-W. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
In this wrongful death action, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Mercy Hospital Joplin due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed Mercy Hospital. On appeal, Plaintiffs conceded that the statute of limitations had run prior to the filing of their claim against Mercy Hospital. Plaintiffs, however, argued that the one-year savings statute that applies to nonsuits applied in this case because they had taken nonsuit against Mercy Hospital less than one year before filing the instant action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs did not suffer a nonsuit against Mercy Hospital but, rather, substituted Mercy Clinic, LLC under Rule 55.33(c) in place of Mercy Hospital even though the limitations period had already expired; (2) Plaintiffs' substitution of Mercy Clinic in place of Mercy Hospital was not a nonsuit entitling them to the benefit of the one-year savings provision; and (3) therefore, the action against Mercy Hospital was time barred. View "Sofia v. Dodson" on Justia Law

by
A patient filed suit in 2015 for dental malpractice against his periodontist stemming from care he received from October 2011 through December 2012. The doctor moved for summary judgment based on the two-year statute of limitations. The patient responded that the discovery rule applied, and the statute did not start running until October 2013, less than two years before he brought suit. The doctor asserted that the patient was on inquiry notice in January 2013, and therefore the statute of limitations expired months before he brought suit. The superior court granted the motion for summary judgment. Finding no reversible error in the superior court's grant of summary judgment to the doctor, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed. View "Arnoult v Webster" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' lawsuit against the Wyoming State Hospital and its staff for medical malpractice, negligence, and wrongful death, holding that Plaintiffs' allegations were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss and that the Hospital and Dr. Sarah Rogers were not immune from suit. Robert Anderson died while in the custody of the Hospital. Prior to his death, Anderson had been adopted by his paternal grandmother, who had since died. Robert Craft, Anderson's biological father and his adoptive brother, and Sabrina Craft, Anderson's appointed personal representative and Robert's wife, brought this action. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding (1) the Crafts lacked standing and had failed to state a claim under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); (2) the Crafts were not qualified death beneficiaries because of Anderson's adoption; and (3) Dr. Rogers and the Hospital were immune from suit under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act (WGCA). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) as Anderson's adoptive brother, Craft was a qualified wrongful death beneficiary; (2) Plaintiffs' allegations of medical malpractice, negligence, and medical malpractice were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss; and (3) Dr. Rogers and the Hospital were not immune from suit. View "Craft v. State ex rel. Wyo. Department of Health" on Justia Law

by
In November 2007, Marten performed surgery on Doe’s face and neck. In June 2008, Doe sent Marten a letter stating she was considering suing him and demanded that he preserve her documents, files, and photos. In November, Doe’s attorney served Marten with a written demand for arbitration pursuant to a Physician-Patient Arbitration Agreement. In January 2009 Marten’s counsel responded, identifying an arbitrator, without questioning the origin of the agreement or disputing that Marten had signed it. The applicable one-year statute of limitations ran in March 2009. (Code Civ. Proc.340.5) In May 2009, Merten subpoenaed and obtained the records of Dr. Daniel, whom Doe earlier consulted. Located within Daniel’s records was a signed arbitration agreement. Nearly three years later, Marten’s counsel first confronted Doe with the arbitration agreement and refused to continue with the arbitration. Doe sued for medical malpractice and medical battery. The court overruled dismissal motions, finding triable issues as to whether equitable tolling or equitable estoppel disallowed the statute of limitations defense. The court imposed sanctions after hearing evidence that Marten destroyed electronically stored information. After the close of evidence, the trial court dismissed the medical battery claim. On the malpractice claim, the jury awarded over $6.3 million in damages. The court then found the malpractice claim time-barred. The court of appeal reversed in part. The medical malpractice claim was not time-barred because Merten’s conduct actually and reasonably induced Doe to refrain from filing a timely action. View "Doe v. Marten" on Justia Law