Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to Defendant, Dr. Leslie Smith, based on quasi-judicial immunity, holding that Defendant was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity because the suit sought to hold him liable for his performance of functions integral to the judicial process. In 2011, Kenneth McFadden stabbed Virgil Brown to death in their shared apartment. At the time of the murder, McFadden was in custody of Greater Assistance to Those in Need, Inc. as part of his conditional release under Act 911 of 1989 and was serving psychiatric treatment by Dr. Smith. Plaintiff, Brown's daughter, filed this action against Dr. Smith on behalf of her father's estate, claiming that Dr. Smith's alleged failure to provide adequate treatment to McFadden rendered him liable for her father's death. The circuit court concluded that Dr. Smith was entitled to immunity because his treatment of McFadden arose solely from the conditional release order and was within the scope of that order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that to the extent Dr. Smith's actions fell within the scope of the court's order he was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. View "Martin v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court entered on the jury's verdict finding that Davis Life Care Center (DLCC), a long-term care facility, was not entitled to charitable immunity and denying DLCC's motion for new trial, holding that the circuit court erred in submitting the charitable-immunity question to the jury. Plaintiff sued DLCC alleging negligence, medical malpractice, breach of an admission agreement, and other causes of action. DLCC filed a motion for summary judgment claiming entitlement to charitable immunity. The circuit court granted the motion. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that reasonable persons could reach different conclusions based on the undisputed facts presented. The circuit court submitted the question of charitable immunity to the jury, which returned a verdict against DLCC. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the issue of charitable immunity is a question of law for the court, rather than the jury, to decide. View "Davis Nursing Ass'n v. Neal" on Justia Law

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Decedent was a resident of Courtyard Gardens Health and Rehabilitation, LLC for nearly one year when she transferred to another nursing home. Decedent subsequently executed a purported durable power of attorney in favor of Appellant. Thereafter, Appellant, as power of attorney for Decedent, filed suit against Courtyard Gardens alleging negligence, medical malpractice, and violations of the Arkansas Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Act. After Decedent died, the circuit court entered an order substituting as the nominal plaintiff Appellant, as special administrator of Decedent’s estate and on behalf of the wrongful-death beneficiaries of Decedent (“the Estate”). Courtyard Gardens moved for summary judgment, asserting that the complaint and amended complaint filed by Appellant under the power of attorney given to him by Decedent were nullities because the power of attorney was invalid and that the circuit court should dismiss the action because the statute of limitations on the Estate’s claims had expired. The circuit court granted Courtyard Gardens’ motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that the power of attorney was invalid and in granting summary judgment based on the conclusion that the complaints were nullities. View "Quarles v. Courtyard Gardens Health & Rehab., LLC" on Justia Law

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Carolyn Gray brought a medical malpractice action against White River Medical Center and its insurer (collectively, WRMC), alleging failure to intervene, vicarious liability, lack of qualified staff, nondelegable duty, and breach of contract. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor of WRMC, dismissed Gray’s breach of contract claim, and, for the remaining claims, allowed Gray ten days to amend her complaint. Gray amended her complaint. WRMC renewed its original motion to dismiss. Gray then filed a second amended complaint alleging negligent hiring of an independent contractor. WRMC moved to dismiss Gray’s additional claim. The circuit court granted WRMC’s remaining motions to dismiss. Gray appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without prejudice for lack of a final order, holding that the circuit court’s order did not contain specific factual findings that there was no just reason for delay in accordance with Ark. R. Civ. P. 54(b). View "Gray v. White River Health Sys. Inc." on Justia Law

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On December 2, 2010, Plaintiff, the husband of the decedent in this case, filed a medical-malpractice action against Defendants as attorney-in-fact for the decedent. The case was removed to federal court and then remanded to state court. On June 7, 2011, Plaintiff filed an amended and substituted complaint that added a defendant. On November 21, 2011, Plaintiff filed a new complaint essentially identical to the amended and substituted complaint in the circuit court. That complaint was removed to federal court, and the federal court stayed the action. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff lacked standing to sue. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that the November 21, 2011 complaint was the first validly filed action in this case and that the doctrine of forum non conveniens supported granting the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by electing to dismiss the complaint under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. View "Silkman v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Soc’y" on Justia Law

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While Defendant was performing laparoscopic surgery to remove Plaintiff's left ovary, Plaintiff's bowel was perforated. Plaintiff required a colostomy to repair the perforation. Plaintiff filed a claim alleging medical malpractice against Defendant and others. At trial, Plaintiff presented the expert testimony of a medical doctor who testified that the actions of Defendant were negligent. After Plaintiff rested, the circuit court granted Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. Plaintiff appealed, asserting that her expert's testimony was sufficient to satisfy the locality rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff's expert's testimony regarding the standard of care in the same or similar locality was insufficient to create a question of fact on this issue; and (2) accordingly, the circuit court did not err in granting Defendant's motion for directed verdict. View "Plymate v. Martinelli" on Justia Law

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On May 2, 2011, Appellant filed a complaint alleging medical malpractice against Appellees. That same day, in accordance with the law at that time, the circuit court issued summonses stating that Appellees had twenty days after service of the complaint to file an answer. On June 2, 2011, after the summonses had been issued but before Appellees were served, the Supreme Court amended its rules to provide that all defendants have thirty days after service of the complaint to file an answer. The Court stated that the amendment would be effective July 1, 2011. One appellee (Dudding) was served on July 28, 2011, and another (Goodman) on August 9, 2011. Dudding filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the summons was defective and the statute of limitations had expired. Goodman filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that process was defective because the summons served upon him indicated that he had twenty days, rather than thirty days, to file a responsive pleading. The circuit court granted both motions, concluding that the summonses were defective when served, and dismissed the complaint as time-barred. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the rule change did not invalidate summonses issued before July 1, 2011. View "May v. Coleman" on Justia Law

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Appellant Diane Ausman, the administrator of the Estate of Daniel Ausman, filed a complaint on August 24, 2009 against a geriatric center and doctor, alleging, among other claims, medical negligence and negligence. Shortly after the suit was filed, Appellant passed away. The attorneys representing Appellant did not learn of her death until May 2011. As a result, the attorneys filed a motion for a continuance of the trial, which was scheduled to begin on July 11, 2011. The parties disputed whether the one-year statute of limitations found in Ark. Code Ann. 16-62-108 was applicable where a special administrator of an estate dies during the pendency of litigation or whether the matter was simply governed by Ark. R. Civ. P. 25's requirement for substitution of parties. The circuit court dismissed the case with prejudice, finding that the Estate improperly failed to revive the action within one year from the date of Appellant's death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Estate's failure to move for substitution within one year from the time of Appellant's death prevented the revivor of the action. View "Ausman v. Hiram Shaddox Geriatric Ctr." on Justia Law

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Appellees Edgar and Clara Shelton filed a complaint against St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, Catholic Health Initiatives (collectively, Appellants) and Golden Living Center, alleging negligence, medical malpractice, and violations of the Arkansas Long Term Care Resident's Rights Statute for Edgar's treatment while he was a patient at the facilities. Golden Living was dismissed from the suit after a settlement. Appellants subsequently filed a cross-claim and third-party complaint against Golden Living. The circuit court struck Appellants' cross-claim and third-party complaint, finding that Appellants did not have a claim or cause of action against Golden Living. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in striking Appellants' third-party complaint; and (2) the dismissal of Appellants' third-party complaint did not operate to prevent Appellants from presenting to the jury potential evidence of Golden Living's responsibility for a portion of Edgar's injuries. View "St. Vincent Infirmary Med. Ctr. v. Shelton" on Justia Law

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When Cody Metheny underwent brain surgery, the physician (Doctor) mistakenly operated on the wrong side of his brain. Fifteen months later, Cody's parents (the Methenys) learned tissue had been removed from the wrong side of Cody's brain. The Methenys filed a direct-action suit, alleging medical negligence on the part of Hospital where Doctor practiced and against Hospital's liability-insurance carrier (Insurer). The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Methenys. Insurer appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in (1) failing to instruct the jury in a manner that would allow it to apportion liability among it and certain physicians who were sued in a prior case but ultimately settled; (2) refusing to allow Insurer to present evidence of fault attributable to the settling physicians; and (3) denying Insurer's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict where the evidence supporting Cody's future damages was based on improperly bundled calculations. The Methenys cross-appealed the circuit court's order reducing the jury's verdict from $20 million to $11 million. The Supreme Court affirmed on direct appeal and cross-appeal, holding that the circuit court did not err in its judgment. View "ProAssurance Indem. Co. v. Metheny" on Justia Law