Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court
GI Associates of Delaware v. Anderson
In 2011, Dr. Natwarlal Ramani, M.D. performed a colonoscopy on William King. At a follow up visit on April 26, 2011, Dr. Ramani recommended that King return for his next colonoscopy in three to five years. King followed that advice and returned to Dr. Ramani for another colonoscopy five years later, in 2016. The March 2016 colonoscopy could not be completed because a cancerous growth had formed in King’s colon. He died a few months later. In April 2018, the Plaintiffs, Monica King Anderson, the Estate of William King, Stephanie King, Heather Guerke, and Amber Withrow, filed this wrongful death action, claiming that Dr. Ramani was negligent in advising King that he did not need a follow-up colonoscopy until as long as five years after the one done in April 2011. Given King’s medical history, they alleged, the standard of care required Dr. Ramani to advise King to return for his next colonoscopy in three years. The negligent advice, they further alleged, resulted in a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer which ultimately led to King’s death. Defendants-appellants, Dr. Ramani, GI Associates of Delaware, P.A., and Advance Endoscopy Center, LLC, moved for summary judgment, arguing Plaintiffs' action was barred by the statute of limitations. The Superior Court found that the continuous negligent medical treatment doctrine applied to the facts of this case, and held that under that doctrine the statute did not begin to run until March 26, 2016, thus making Plaintiffs' suit timely filed. The Delaware Supreme Court granted certiorari review of the Superior Court's ruling. After review, the Supreme Court the continuous negligent medical treatment doctrine did not apply. The Court rejected Plaintiffs' contention the Court should have adopted a limited time-of-discovery rule in cancer cases. Plaintiffs' constitutional arguments were not ripe unless and until it was determined this case was, in fact, barred by the statute of limitations. "On remand, the Defendants are free to pursue their statute of limitations defense. If they do, the Superior Court should make a factual determination as to when the date of injury occurred and apply § 6856 to that finding accordingly. If the Superior Court determines that the action is barred by [18 Del. C. section 6856], the Plaintiffs may present their constitutional arguments there." View "GI Associates of Delaware v. Anderson" on Justia Law
Christiana Care Health Services Inc. v. Carter, et al.
Appellant Christiana Care Health Services, Inc. (“CCHS”) brought an interlocutory appeal of a Superior Court decision to deny its motion for partial summary judgment. The alleged medical negligence at issue in the underlying case occurred during surgery performed on Margaret Rackerby Flint at Christiana Care Hospital, which is operated by CCHS. The surgery allegedly caused her death two days later. The complaint was filed by Meeghan Carter, Ms. Flint’s daughter, individually and as administratrix of Ms. Flint’s estate. It named as defendants Dr. Michael Principe, who performed the surgery, Dr. Eric Johnson, who assisted him, and CCHS. Later, the medical practices of the two doctors were added as defendants. The sole claim against CCHS was that the two doctors were its agents and it is vicariously liable for their alleged negligence. Mediation resolved claims against Dr. Principe and his medical practice. As part of that settlement, plaintiff signed a release which released all such claims. CCHS was not a party to the settlement or the release. Following that settlement, CCHS filed its motion for partial summary judgment against plaintiff on the theory that the release of Dr. Principe released it from any vicarious liability for Dr. Principe’s alleged negligence. The Superior Court denied the motion. CCHS argued: (1) the release of an agent released a vicarious liability claim against the principal as a matter of law; and (2) the terms of the release which plaintiff signed when she settled with Dr. Principe and his medical practice also released it from liability for Dr. Principe’s conduct. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with CCHS’s second contention, finding that the written release operated as a complete satisfaction of plaintiff’s vicarious liability claim against CCHS arising from Dr. Principe’s alleged conduct, and the motion for partial summary judgment should have been granted. View "Christiana Care Health Services Inc. v. Carter, et al." on Justia Law
Verrastro v. Bayhospitalists, LLC
The issue this medical negligence case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court’s review centered on the dismissal of claims against two physicians on statute-of-limitations grounds, and whether that dismissal barred the prosecution of a timely filed claim based on the same underlying facts against the physicians’ employer under the doctrine of respondeat superior. The Superior Court, relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Greco v. University of Delaware, 619 A.2d 900 (Del. 1993), ruled that the dismissal of the physicians effectively extinguished the claims against the physicians’ employer and therefore entered summary judgment in the employer’s favor. The Supreme Court found the Superior Court correctly read Greco, and under Greco’s teaching, the Superior Court’s dismissal was proper. In this en banc decision, however, the Supreme Court concluded Greco had to be overruled to the extent that it held that, if a plaintiff failed to sue the employee whose malpractice allegedly injured her within the statute of limitations, she was for that reason alone barred from suing the employer under principles of respondeat superior. Because in this case plaintiff sued the employer in a timely manner, settled principles of law authorized the plaintiff to proceed against that employer. “Although the plaintiff must of course prove her claim against the employer, including that the employee was negligent, the fact that she failed to sue the employee in a timely manner does not act to immunize the employer. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Superior Court.” View "Verrastro v. Bayhospitalists, LLC" on Justia Law
Wong v. Broughton
A jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff Monica Broughton, in a medical negligence suit she brought in the amount of $3 million. The case was brought by Ms. Broughton individually and as parent and natural guardian of her nine-year-old son, Amari Broughton-Fleming. The injury involved was a permanent injury to Amari’s right brachial plexus that occurred during birth. Defendants are Dr. Peter J. Wong and his medical practice, Dedicated To Women, OB-GYN, P.A. argued on appeal the superior court erred: (1) when it denied their motion in limine to exclude the opinion of plaintiff’s standard of care expert, which allowed an impermissible res ipsa loquitur opinion that resulting in the jury improperly presuming negligence from the fact that an injury occurred; (2) when it denied their motion in limine to exclude plaintiff’s causation expert, which they contended lacked a proper factual foundation, and constituted an impermissible res ipsa loquitur opinion; (3) when it permitted plaintiff to elicit statistical evidence from Dr. Wong and his experts to establish the rarity of brachial plexus injuries; and (4) when it refused to instruct the jury on “Actions Taken in Emergency.” The Delaware Supreme Court concluded the first and third contentions were directly addressed by the superior court in a ruling on post-trial motions; the second and fourth contentions, which were initially raised and denied before trial, were not reargued in the post-trial motions. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed as to defendants' four arguments on appeal. View "Wong v. Broughton" on Justia Law
Norman v. All About Women, P.A., et al.
Plaintiff Amanda Norman appealed after a superior court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants All About Women, P.A. and Christine W. Maynard, M.D. in a medical negligence case. The grant of summary judgment followed an earlier ruling that the testimony of plaintiff's medical expert was inadmissible under the rules of evidence. In that ruling, the court excluded the expert’s testimony because the plaintiff failed to show that his opinions were “‘based on information reasonably relied upon by experts’ in his field.” Taking plaintiff's expert's deposition testimony as a whole, the Delaware Supreme Court found it sufficient to establish the applicable standards of care, Dr. Maynard's deviations from those standards, and injury to plaintiff caused by those deviations. As such, the Court ruled the expert's testimony admissible, reversed the superior court ruling, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Norman v. All About Women, P.A., et al." on Justia Law
Turner v. Delaware Surgical Group, P.A., et al.
Plaintiff-Appellant Heather Turner appealed a superior court judgment that ruled in favor of Defendants-Appellees Michael Conway, M.D., Eric Kalish, M.D. and their practice, Delaware Surgical Group. Plaintiff sued defendants over what was initially an appendectomy, but ended with a "mass" on her liver from "something that had spilled out from prior surgeries" performed by the two doctor defendants. Plaintiff argued that the trial court abused its discretion in improperly admitting defendants' expert evidence . Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed and remanded the case for a new trial. View "Turner v. Delaware Surgical Group, P.A., et al." on Justia Law
Hill v. DuShuttle
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether the Superior Court abused its discretion by dismissing a “trip and fall” case because appellant failed to file an expert report. Appellant’s counsel did provide medical records, but insisted that a formal expert report was unnecessary because such a report would provide no additional information. "Counsel’s stubborn refusal to appreciate that an expert report had to be filed is difficult to understand." But the Supreme Court concluded that the sanction of dismissal was inappropriate under the circumstances. "The claim appeared to have merit; there was time to submit the report without impacting the trial date; and the trial court had not imposed lesser sanctions that were ignored." Accordingly, the Court reversed. View "Hill v. DuShuttle" on Justia Law
Christian v. Counseling Resource Associates, Inc., et al.
The trial court precluded appellants’ experts from testifying at trial because they failed to provide the experts’ reports in accordance with the trial scheduling order. Without any expert testimony, appellants’ claims failed as a matter of law, and judgment was entered for appellees. But appellants had requested a conference with the trial court six months before the trial date to discuss the need to revise the scheduling order. The trial court refused to meet with counsel or change the trial date. Appellants appealed the trial court's refusal to confer, and the Supreme Court held that was an abuse of discretion: "A conference held at that point would have allowed the trial court to determine whether the circumstances justified a new trial date. If not, the trial court could have set new discovery deadlines that would have maintained the original trial date. . . . Because experience has shown that sanctions are not always effective [when counsel fails to abide by set deadlines, and to address crowded, high volume docket problems of the courts]," the Court has determined that it is necessary to refine the "Drejka" analysis. "Henceforth, parties who ignore or extend scheduling deadlines without promptly consulting the trial court, will do so at their own risk." View "Christian v. Counseling Resource Associates, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Spicer, et al. v. Osunkoya, M.D.
In an interlocutory appeal of a medical malpractice action, the court considered whether a doctor owed a duty of care to a patient after the doctor referred the patient to a specialist. The patient allegedly suffered serious injuries as a result of the specialist's negligence. The court held that the referring doctor had no duty to the patient at the time of her injury and that the referring doctor's alleged negligence was not the proximate cause of the patient's injury. Accordingly, the Superior Court correctly granted summary judgment in the referring doctor's favor. View "Spicer, et al. v. Osunkoya, M.D." on Justia Law
Dishmon, et al. v. Fucci, et al.
Plaintiff filed suit against nursing home staff members alleging that defendants committed medical negligence that resulted in his father's death. A Superior Court judge dismissed the suit, stating that plaintiff's Affidavit of Merit failed to comply with 18 Del. C. 6853 because plaintiff failed to enclose a copy of the testifying expert's curriculum vitae. The court held that, since this error was procedural, a proper exercise of the trial judge's discretion would have permitted the later submission of the curriculum vitae. Therefore, the Superior Court judge erroneously dismissed the complaint. View "Dishmon, et al. v. Fucci, et al." on Justia Law