Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Dr. Paulus was prosecuted for healthcare fraud. Government consultants reviewed 496 of Paulus’s procedures and concluded that 146 (about 30%) were unnecessary. King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) consultants also reviewed a random selection of Paulus’ procedures. Three experts at trial concluded that Paulus overstated his patients’ arterial blockage and inserted medically unnecessary stents. A jury convicted Paulus. After remand, before sentencing, the government disclosed to Paulus for the first time the “Shields Letter,” stating that when KDMC faced previous legal trouble, it hired independent experts to review 1,049 of Paulus’s cases; they flagged about 7% of his procedures as unnecessary. The defense viewed this evidence as exculpatory and consistent with diagnostic differences of opinion. Before trial, the district court had held that the information was inadmissible and that the parties “[we]re not to disclose” any information about the KDMC Review to Paulus.The Sixth Circuit vacated Paulus’s convictions and remanded, finding that the Shields Letter was material to Paulus’s defense and that failure to disclose it violated Paulus’s “Brady” rights. On remand, the government subpoenaed KDMC for additional information regarding the study referenced in the Shields Letter. KDMC objected, citing the attorney-client, work-product, and settlement privileges. The government filed a motion to compel, which was granted. KDMC sought a writ of mandamus. The Sixth Circuit denied KDMC’s petition. KDMC’s disclosure of some information regarding its experts’ study waived its privilege over the related, undisclosed information now being sought. View "In re: King's Daughters Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to review a certified interlocutory order dismissing Defendant-respondent OSU Medical Trust, doing business as OSU Medical Center (OSUMC), from a medical malpractice lawsuit. The issue was whether Plaintiffs-appellants Miranda and Colby Crawford, Natural Parents and on Behalf of C.C.C., a Minor, and Miranda and Colby Crawford, Individually (collectively, the Crawfords) complied with the notice provisions of the Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA). The Supreme Court held that the Crawfords failed to present notice of their tort claim within one year of the date the loss occurred and, pursuant to 51 O.S.Supp.2012 section 156(B), their claims against OSUMC were forever barred. The Court thus affirmed the trial court's order dismissing OSUMC with prejudice. View "Crawford v. OSU Medical Trust" on Justia Law

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Claiborne County Hospital (CCH) sought summary judgment against Julius Truitt on his medical-negligence claim. CCH claimed Truitt failed to designate a medical expert. Truitt responded to CCH’s motion that a genuine issue of material fact existed, and that he was exempt from producing sworn expert testimony under the layman’s exception allowing lay testimony despite the general rule requiring medical expert testimony in medical-negligence cases. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that as a matter of law, the trial court erred by denying CCH’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court found CCH met its summary-judgment burden by showing that Truitt failed to produce sworn expert testimony establishing a prima facie case of medical negligence. The trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Claiborne County Hospital v. Truitt" on Justia Law

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St. Alexius Medical Center, d/b/a CHI St. Alexius Health Bismarck, requested a supervisory writ preventing enforcement of the district court’s order compelling disclosure of privileged information. Kevin McKibbage sued Daniel Dixon, Bone & Joint Center, and CHI for medical malpractice relating to a surgery Dixon performed in 2017. In response to McKibbage’s discovery requests, CHI produced some of the requested documents and asserted privileges on others. CHI provided a privilege log identifying undisclosed documents and the privileges claimed. McKibbage filed a motion to compel arguing CHI did not provide sufficient information in the privilege log. CHI responded that it identified all the information it could without violating the peer review law, but CHI agreed to produce an amended privilege log containing greater descriptions. The district court found the law permitted the disclosure of additional information and ordered the following to be disclosed: the dates the documents were created, the identity of the person who created each document and their position at the time of creation, and the identity of the person who received each document and their position for peer review. CHI argued to the North Dakota Supreme Court that the disclosures violated North Dakota’s statutory peer review privilege. The Supreme Court granted CHI's petition and directed the district court to vacate its November 8, 2021 discovery order. View "St. Alexius Medical Center v. Nesvig, et al." on Justia Law

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Pappas sued Dr. Chang for malpractice. During mediation, they agreed that Chang would pay Pappas $100,000. Both parties and their counsel signed a settlement agreement, which provided that Pappas “will execute a release of all claims ... in a more comprehensive settlement agreement ... to include a provision for mutual confidentiality as to the facts ... the terms and amount of this agreement.” The parties unsuccessfully negotiated the “more comprehensive settlement agreement” and “provision for mutual confidentiality” for months. Pappas discharged her attorney and, representing herself, advised Chang’s attorney that she would only comply with a confidentiality provision if she received $525,000, then sued Chang for breach of contract.The trial court ruled against Pappas “because she has not signed a ‘more comprehensive settlement agreement’ and release which includes a provision for mutual confidentiality.” In consolidated appeals, the court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that a confidentiality provision would be against public policy and violate the Business and Professions Code. The court also rejected Chang’s appeal of the trial court’s denial of her attorney fees as costs of proof at trial (Code Civ. Proc., 2033.420) based on its finding that Pappas’s denial of two requests for admission was based on a good faith belief she would prevail at trial and that the requests went to the ultimate issue. View "Pappas v. Chang" on Justia Law

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The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) appealed a county court judgment granting Genevieve Jensen’s motion for extension of time to serve process on the attorney general and its decision denying UMMC’s motion for summary judgment based on a statute of limitations defense. Since Jensen failed to articulate good cause for an extension of time to serve process, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined the county court abused its discretion by granting her motion for extension, it reversed the county court’s decision and dismissed Jensen’s case with prejudice. View "University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Jensen" on Justia Law

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Relatives of Saldana, who died from COVID-19 at Glenhaven nursing home, sued Glenhaven in California state court, alleging state-law causes of action. Glenhaven removed the case to federal court. The Ninth Circuit affirmed a remand to state court,The district court lacked jurisdiction under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442, because Glenhaven did not act under a federal officer or agency’s directions when it complied with mandatory directives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Health and Human Services.The claims were not completely preempted by the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which provides immunity from suit when the HHS Secretary determines that a threat to health constitutes a public health emergency, but provides an exception for an exclusive federal cause of action for willful misconduct. A March 2020 declaration under the Act provided "liability immunity for activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19.” The Act does not displace non-willful misconduct claims related to the public health emergency, nor did it provide substitute causes of action. The federal scheme was not so comprehensive that it entirely supplanted state law claims.The district court did not have jurisdiction under the embedded federal question doctrine, which applies if a federal issue is necessarily raised, actually disputed, substantial, and capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress. View "Saldana v. Glenhaven Healthcare LLC" on Justia Law

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Albright was severely injured in a car accident and used opioids to manage her chronic pain. She became addicted to opioids. Seeking treatment for her addiction, Albright turned to Dr. Christensen to administer a one-week in-patient detoxification program. Christensen started Albright with a patient-controlled analgesia pump to supply her with hydromorphone, a pain reliever; he also gave Albright phenobarbital, which depresses the central nervous system. Christensen terminated these treatments after Albright became “anxious and tearful” while the two discussed the treatment. Changing tack, Christensen twice administered Suboxone—an opioid-replacement medication—to Albright. On both occasions, Albright immediately developed muscle spasms, pain, contortions, restlessness, and feelings of temporary paralysis. She refused further treatment and was discharged. Albright still suffers shaking, muscle spasms, and emotional distress.The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of Albright’s suit against Christensen. The suit sounds in medical malpractice rather than negligence. Michigan’s affidavit-of-merit and pre-suit-notice rules for medical-malpractice actions conflict with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and do not apply in diversity cases in federal court. Federal Rule 3 requires only the filing of a complaint to commence an action—nothing more. The district court mistakenly invoked Erie and applied the pre-suit-notice rule in Albright’s case. View "Albright v. Christensen" on Justia Law

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Tomei went to Parkwest Hospital after he injured his foot and leg. He is deaf and communicates using American Sign Language. He asked for an interpreter. Parkwest never provided one. Medical staff gave him an antibiotic and ibuprofen and sent him home. Days later he went to the emergency room, where doctors determined he had blood clots in his leg. Parkwest offered only to connect Tomei with an off-site interpreter via webcam. The connection was so glitchy that Tomei could not effectively communicate. After surgery, Tomei could not tell the medical staff that he was still experiencing pain. Tomei was sent home. Tomei’s family doctor sent him to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where interpreters helped him through a second surgery. Ultimately, doctors amputated nearly one-third of his leg. About 15 months after he was first denied an interpreter, Tomei sued under section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).The Sixth Circuit rejected an argument that the suit was untimely under Tennessee’s one-year statute of limitations for personal injury suits. Unless federal law provides otherwise, a civil action “arising under” a federal statute enacted after December 1, 1990, is subject to a four-year statute of limitations. 28 U.S.C. 1658(a). Tomei brought his discrimination claim under the ACA—not the Rehabilitation Act. No statute or regulation explicitly sets a statute of limitations for violating the ACA’s discrimination bar. View "Tomei v. Parkwest Medical Center" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Craig Steltz filed a medical malpractice action against Dr. William Meyers, Vincera Core Institute, and Vincera Institute (collectively Appellants). While rehabilitating from surgery, Steltz, a professional football player, felt a pop in his right leg. This led him to return to Dr. Meyers, after team physicians received results from a MRI. At a follow-up appointment, Dr. Meyers also performed an MRI on Steltz, discussed the MRI with Dr. Adam Zoga, a musculoskeletal radiologist, and concluded Steltz had scar tissue breakup, a normal postoperative finding, and not a new injury. However, Dr. Paul Read, a second musculoskeletal radiologist, also independently reviewed the second MRI, and issued a report concluding there was a complete tear of the adductor tendon. Based on these conflicting interpretations of the MRI, Steltz alleged Dr. Meyers was negligent in failing to diagnose and disclose the existence of the tear as reported by Dr. Read. Appellants’ counsel’s first line of questioning to Dr. Zoga on direct examination at trial, asked Dr. Zoga's estimation of how many musculoskeletal radiologists there were in the US, and commented, in his question, that "plaintiff couldn’t find one of them to come into this courtroom to support Dr. Read, did you know that?" Steltz's counsel requested a curative instruction, and moved for a mistrial. The trial court gave the jury a curative instruction and denied the mistrial. Appellants' counsel, in closing, referred back to that line of questioning, asserting Steltz “didn’t bring anybody in to dispute [Dr. Crain and Dr. Zoga] because they can’t.” Steltz’s counsel did not object to any of these statements. Instead, in rebuttal, Steltz’s counsel reiterated that Dr. Read was a board-certified radiologist with a focus in musculoskeletal radiology. The jury returned a verdict for Appellants. Steltz filed a post-trial motion asserting the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial because the effect of Appellants’ counsel’s question to Dr. Zoga was so prejudicial that no jury instruction could adequately cure the prejudice. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying a mistrial based on a single, unanswered question proposed to an expert witness, and that decision alone could not later serve as the basis for granting a new trial. View "Steltz v. Meyers M.D., et al." on Justia Law