Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Jana Mortensen sought treatment from Dr. Jeffrey Baker at The Healing Sanctuary, LLC, after a hysterectomy failed to resolve symptoms for ongoing pelvic pain. Mortensen alleged Dr. Baker prescribed Mortensen a 14-day course of “ozone treatment” to be self-administered intravaginally at home. Mortensen allegedly breathed in ozone gas while administering the treatment, which she alleged caused her permanent pulmonary and cardiac injuries. Mortensen filed a complaint against Dr. Baker and The Healing Sanctuary (collectively “Dr. Baker”), claiming medical malpractice. Dr. Baker moved for summary judgment, arguing that Mortensen could not prove causation. The district court conditionally granted Dr. Baker’s motion for summary judgment after finding Mortensen had not raised a genuine issue of material fact; however, the court gave Mortensen a specified time to secure expert testimony on causation. Mortensen did not comply with the deadline. The district court entered summary judgment, denying Mortensen’s second request for additional time. The district court also denied her motion to reconsider. Mortensen appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the district court erred in excluding certain statements. As a result, Dr. Baker was not entitled to summary judgment because the excluded testimony created a genuine issue of material fact. View "Mortensen v. Baker" on Justia Law

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Michael Summerfield brought a medical malpractice suit against St. Luke’s McCall, Ltd. (St. Luke’s), following the surgical removal of his gallbladder. During surgery, the attending surgeon, employed by St. Luke’s, unknowingly spilled and left a gallstone in Summerfield’s peritoneal cavity. When it was later determined that the gallstone was not in the removed gallbladder, the surgeon failed to inform Summerfield of the incident, warn him of any potential complications, or properly document the incident in his medical records. St. Luke’s moved for summary judgment, challenging the admissibility of the opinions offered by Summerfield’s expert witness. St. Luke’s claimed Summerfield’s expert, as an emergency medicine and wound care physician, was unable to establish the requisite knowledge of the applicable standards of care and breaches thereof by St. Luke’s and the attending surgeon. The district court initially agreed with St. Luke’s and granted its motion for summary judgment. Summerfield then filed a motion for reconsideration and attached a supplemental declaration from his expert witness that established the requisite foundation. The district court considered this additional evidence and granted Summerfield’s motion. However, the district court later reversed itself, relying on Ciccarello v. Davies, 456 P.3d 519 (2019), which held that a trial court was afforded discretion in determining whether to consider new declarations accompanying a motion for reconsideration if they were untimely for consideration at summary judgment. Summerfield appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, contending the district court’s sua sponte reversal of itself was in error and contrary to previous decisions issued by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court in part, and reversed in part. The Court affirmed district court’s decision to grant St. Luke’s motion for summary judgment on Summerfield’s claim that Dr. Ocmand breached the standard of care for not noticing the spilled gallstone and not retrieving it because Dr. Madsen did not establish a sufficient foundation to testify as to the appropriate standard of care. The Court also affirmed the district court’s sua sponte decision to reverse itself and not consider Dr. Madsen’s third affidavit and reinstate judgment for St. Luke’s on this same ground. However, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision to grant St. Luke’s motion for summary judgment as to Summerfield’s claims that Dr. Ocmand breached the standard of care by failing to inform Summerfield of the spilled gallstone and by failing to note the spilled gallstone in Summerfield’s medical chart because Dr. Madsen laid a sufficient foundation to testify as to these matters. View "Summerfield v. St. Luke's McCall" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Cassie Secol and her four minor children (collectively “the Secols”) challenged several evidentiary rulings, jury instructions, and the denial of their motion for a new trial. In late 2016, Damian Secol passed away from a rare form of cancer, T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma (“T-LBL”). Following his death, the Secols brought a medical malpractice action against Damian’s primary care providers: Kelly Dustin, D.O., Austin Gillette, M.D., and Fall River Medical, PLLC (collectively “Fall River”). At trial, the district court questioned Dr. Jeffery Hancock, Damian’s treating oncologist, in front of the jury concerning the treatment and diagnosis of T-LBL. The Secols moved the district court for a mistrial, arguing the questioning prevented a fair trial. The district court denied the motion. After the jury returned a verdict in Fall River’s favor, the Secols moved the district court for a new trial, which was also denied. The Secols appealed, challenging the district court’s evidentiary rulings, delivery of jury instructions, and the denial of their motion for a new trial. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court, vacated the judgment following the jury verdict, and remanded for a new trial to be conducted by a new district judge. Specifically, the Court determined the district court abused its discretion in denying the Secols’ motion for a new trial because its questioning of Dr. Hancock denied the Secols a fair trial. "Such questioning was an abuse of discretion and necessitates a new trial." Further, the district court abused its discretion in permitting Dr. Hancock to testify as to matters for which no foundation was laid and which were outside the scope of his expertise. And in addition, the district court erred in admitting irrelevant testimony about Dr. Gillette’s and Dr. Dustin’s families and hobbies, and the district court erred in delivering a modified jury instruction on medical negligence, which included prejudicially confusing language concerning direct expert testimony as compared to expert testimony. The district court was affirmed as to the admission of Fall River two experts' testimony on the standard of care because its decision on Fall River’s motion for reconsideration was not part of the record. View "Secol v. Fall River Medical PLLC" on Justia Law

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Rockne Lee Hollingsworth brought a medical malpractice claim against a local hospital and doctor in Gem County, Idaho district court. The district court found Hollingsworth lacked due diligence in failing to determine the hospital was a political subdivision, subject to the notice requirements of the Idaho Tort Claims Act (“ITCA”), and granted summary judgment for Respondents. Hollingsworth appealed, arguing the corporate filings made by the county-owned hospital created the false impression the hospital was a private corporation. Respondents contended the hospital and corporate entity, both owned by Gem County, were both subject to the ITCA because they were actually one and the same. To this, the Idaho Supreme Court concurred and reversed the district court's ruling. View "Hollingsworth v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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David and Margaret Fisk appealed after a district court granted summary judgment in favor of Jeffery D. McDonald, M.D., and the Hospital on their medical malpractice claims. The district court granted summary judgment on the Fisks’ single cause of action after determining the Fisks had failed to provide expert testimony demonstrating actual knowledge of the community standard of care. The Fisks also appealed the district court’s order denying their subsequent motion for reconsideration. The district court granted summary judgment on the basis that the Fisks failed to establish an essential element of their medical malpractice claim. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court's decision was not based on expert testimony submitted by McDonald or the Hospital. As such, the conclusory nature or admissibility of any such testimony was immaterial to the district court’s decision. Therefore, the district court did not err in determining that the burden was on the Fisks to establish the essential elements of their medical malpractice claim. The Court found, however, that the district court erred in denying the Fisks' motions for reconsideration. The district court was asked to reconsider the order granting summary judgment, so the summary judgment standard applied to the district court’s decision on the motion for reconsideration and now applied to the Supreme Court’s review of that decision on appeal. The Fisks supported their motions for reconsideration with additional expert declarations, one of which demonstrated that he had actual knowledge of the community standard of care. Furthermore, the Supreme Court determined the district court erred in determining that the Fisks failed to properly plead that McDonald was liable for the acts or omissions of a nurse practitioner via the agency theory of liability. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Fisk v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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Debra Dlouhy, Dustin Dlouhy, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Duane Dlouhy (“the Dlouhys”) appealed a district court order granting summary judgment in favor of Kootenai Health. The district court granted summary judgment on the Dlouhys’ medical malpractice action after determining that the Dlouhys had failed to provide adequate foundation showing that their expert witnesses had actual knowledge of the community standard of care. In May 2015, Duane Dlouhy went to the emergency department because of rectal bleeding. After a CT scan, "no obvious mass" was noted on his records, but that "dark red blood" was present. The radiologist charted that a “neoplasm cannot be excluded.” Mr. Dlouhy was discharged from the hospital and went home, but returned several hours later after the rectal bleeding began again. A colonoscopy was performed, but no complete view of the rectum could be obtained. Mr. Dlouhy was discharged again. He would have follow-up appointments in June and September, 2015, and in January 2016. By August, he had been diagnosed with state IV colorectal cancer. After review of the trial court record, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in granting Kootenai Health’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the Dlouhys failed to provide sufficient expert testimony as to the community standard of care. The Dlouhys argued that “for board-certified physicians, there is a national standard of care.” They argued that Mr. Dlouhy's original emergency physician was subject to the national standard of care that applied to board-certified gastroenterologists, and that their out-of-area expert had actual knowledge of the applicable national standard because he held the same board certification as the local physician. The Supreme Court concluded the expert familiarized himself sufficiently in the community standard of care for board-certified gastroenterologists such that his testimony should not have been excluded. The district court’s order granting summary judgment was reversed in part, the final judgment dismissing the Dlouhys’ medical malpractice claim was vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Dlouhy v. Kootenai Hospital District" on Justia Law

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Penny Phillips, her son, and daughter, brought a medical malpractice suit against various Idaho Falls health care providers. Phillips and her children alleged the health care providers were negligent in the care they provided to Phillips’ husband, Scott Phillips, immediately prior to his death by suicide. The district court rejected the Phillipses’ claims by granting summary judgment in favor of the health care providers. The Phillipses appealed several adverse rulings by the district court. The health care providers cross-appealed, contending the district court abused its discretion in amending the scheduling order to allow the Phillipses to name a rebuttal expert. The Idaho Supreme Court determined summary judgment was improvidently granted: it was an abuse of the trial court's discretion in: (1) granting the providers' motion for a protective order preventing the Phillipses from conducting a I.R.C.P. 30(b)(6) deposition regarding the community standard of care; (2) in allowing depositions of local familiarization experts because it did not apply the correct standard; and (3) striking an expert's testimony because that expert demonstrated the requisite actual knowledge of the local standard of care. The court did not abuse its discretion in granting the Phillipses' motion to amend the scheduling order. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Phillips v. Eastern ID Health Svcs" on Justia Law

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Phillip and Marcia Eldridge filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Gregory West (West), Lance Turpin, PA-C (Turpin), and Summit Orthopaedics Specialists, PLLC (Summit), alleging Phillip became infected with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) as a result of malpractice committed by West, Turpin, and agents of Summit. West performed hip replacement surgery on Phillip’s right hip in October 2009. In 2012, West performed what he later described as exploratory surgery on Phillip’s hip to determine the source of Phillip’s pain, as well as the potential replacement of components if an infection were found. All of the test results from the samples sent to the pathology department indicated there was no infection in the hip. Rather than explant the hip in its entirety, West replaced only the metal ball at the head of the femur with a ceramic ball. Following the second surgery, Phillip experienced numerous adverse complications. Phillip would have another revision a few months later, during which the MRSA was discovered. The Eldridges claimed West and Turpin breached the standard of care that was due them and as a result, sustained damages. The district court granted various motions, including a motion to dismiss certain causes of action against West, Turpin, and Summit, as well as a motion for summary judgment brought by Turpin and Summit, and a motion for partial summary judgment brought by West. In their appeal, the Eldridges contended the district court erred by: (1) dismissing their claims for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, and reckless, willful, and wanton conduct; (2) denying their motion to strike the affidavits of West and Turpin; (3) limiting their claim for damages; and (4) concluding that the Eldridges could only present evidence of damages, specifically medical bills, after the Medicare write-offs had been calculated. In affirming in part and reversing in part, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in refusing to strike portions of West’s first affidavit and Turpin’s affidavit because they were conclusory. Furthermore, the district court abused its discretion in precluding the Eldridges from putting on proof of damages that arose after April 24, 2013, and their presentation of damages. Orders granting summary judgment to West regarding the Eldridges’ informed consent claim and Turpin were affirmed. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Eldridge v. West" on Justia Law

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Shane and Rebecca Ackerschott sued Mountain View Hospital, LLC, doing business as Redicare (“Redicare”), after Shane sustained an injury leading to paraplegia. A jury found Redicare’s treatment of Shane breached the standard of care and awarded the Ackerschotts $7,958,113.67 in total damages. After judgment was entered, Redicare filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, a new trial. The Ackerschotts also moved to alter or amend the judgment. All post-trial motions were denied. Redicare appealed, arguing the district court erred by not submitting an instruction on comparative negligence to the jury and by allowing testimony of the Ackerschotts’ expert witness. The Ackerschotts cross-appealed, arguing the cap on noneconomic damages imposed by Idaho Code section 6-1603 was unconstitutional. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed as to Redicare’s direct appeal, and declined to reach the merits of the Ackerschotts’ constitutional claim on cross-appeal. View "Ackerschott v. Mtn View Hospital; Redicare" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Idaho Supreme Court in this case was a suit for medical malpractice brought by Leila Brauner against AHC of Boise, dba Aspen Transitional Rehab (Aspen). The claim arose out of Aspen’s delay in sending Brauner to the hospital following her knee replacement surgery, which was a substantial factor resulting in the amputation of Brauner’s right leg at the mid-thigh. After a trial, the jury entered a verdict in favor of Brauner and awarded her $2,265,204 in damages. Aspen appealed, alleging that various pre-trial and post-trial rulings were made in error and resulted in an unsustainable judgment. After review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error, and affirmed. View "Brauner v. AHC of Boise" on Justia Law