Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

by
The Supreme Court held that the "common knowledge" exception to the affidavit requirement for professional negligence claims against a provider of health care can also be applied to determine whether a claim that appears to sound in professional negligence, and does not fall under Nev. Rev. Stat. 41A.100, actually sounds in ordinary negligence and thus is not subject to Nev. Rev. Stat. 41A.071. A nursing home nurse mistakenly administered morphine to a patient that had been prescribed for another patient. The patient died three days later from morphine intoxication. The patient's estate sued the nursing home but did not explicitly assert any claim for professional negligence or file an expert affidavit under section 41A.071. The district court granted summary judgment for the nursing home, concluding that the complaint's allegations sounded in professional negligence and, therefore, the estate was required to file an expert affidavit. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the mistaken administration of another patient's morphine constituted ordinary negligence that a lay juror could assess without expert testimony, and such a claim is not subject to section 41A.071's medical expert affidavit requirement; and (2) the district court correctly granted summary judgment on the allegations regarding the failure to monitor, as those allegations required expert testimony to support. View "Estate of Mary Curtis v. Las Vegas Medical Investors, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this negligence action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Defendant, holding that a juror should have been struck for cause based on bias and that there was prejudice because Plaintiff, the party objecting to the juror, was forced to exhaust her last peremptory challenge and accept and objectionable juror. The estate of Kandace Pyles brought a negligence claim against various medical providers, including Defendant. The juror in this case stated that he did not want to serve as a juror, that he had a favorable impression of doctors, and that he would not be able to assess noneconomic damages. Plaintiff moved to strike the juror for cause, and the trial court denied the motion. Plaintiff used her final peremptory challenge on the juror. After a trial, the jury found that Defendant was not negligent. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court's decision to deny Plaintiff's for-cause challenge was illogical and that a new trial was appropriate. View "Clark v. Mattar" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Christi McAlpine filed a medical malpractice action against defendant Dr. Daniel Norman for injuries she suffered as a result of colonoscopies performed on her in 2015. In 2018, with trial approaching, Norman filed a summary judgment motion, supported by a declaration from an expert who reviewed McAlpine’s medical records, and opined that Norman’s actions were within the standard of care. McAlpine opposed the motion, but did not submit a competing expert opinion. While the summary judgment motion was pending, McAlpine sought leave to amend her complaint. The trial court denied leave to amend and granted summary judgment. McAlpine appealed the grant of summary judgment and the order denying her motion for leave to amend, arguing that the expert declaration presented in support of the motion for summary judgment was conclusory and insufficient to meet the initial burden for summary judgment. She also argued the trial court abused its discretion in denying her request for leave to amend. The Court of Appeal found no abuse of discretion in the order denying leave to amend, but agreed the trial court improperly granted summary judgment based on an expert opinion unsupported by factual detail or reasoned explanation. Accordingly, the Court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "McAlpine v. Norman" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, the widow and executrix of her late husband's estate, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging a claim of medical malpractice on behalf of the estate and alleging individually a claim of wrongful death. The claims stemmed from injuries her husband suffered during a fall, shortly before his death, while hospitalized in a Veterans Affairs hospital. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the medical malpractice claim in the absence of a breach of the applicable standard of medical care. In this case, substantial evidence supported the district court's factual findings with respect to the husband's condition on the morning of the fall and the care the nurses provided him to and after his fall. The court also held that the district court did not err in dismissing the wrongful death claim in the absence of an underlying tort claim. View "Howard v. United States" on Justia Law

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