Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Appellants Thomas Strong and Brian Hawk appealed a district court's order dismissing their case pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) for failing to prosecute, and 40(c) for unjustified inaction for over six months. The case arose out of neuron simulator implant procedures, in which both appellant alleged he received an inappropriate amount of anesthesia from respondents, causing complications after the surgeries. Initially, in 2006, appellants commenced their claims by filing a prelitigation screening with the State Board of Medicine. Several months later, Hawk filed for bankruptcy. The district court stayed the medical malpractice claim until the bankruptcy proceedings had concluded. In 2007, respondents sent appellate counsel a stipulation to bifurcate the case so that Strong's case could proceed. Appellants' counsel did not agree to the bifurcation. Hawk's bankruptcy case closed in 2008. In 2010, respondents moved to lift the stay and dismiss the case for failure to prosecute. Appellants noted that Hawk had not disclosed the present underlying cause of action during his bankruptcy proceedings. The district court granted Appellants sixty days to rectify the bankruptcy matters. Appellants then requested the bankruptcy court to reopen the case and the district court again stayed its proceedings pending the resolution of the disclosure issue in the bankruptcy schedules. In 2013, the bankruptcy trustee ultimately determined that the action was of no value to the bankruptcy estate and reclosed the case. In 2014, respondents filed a renewed motion to dismiss, which was ultimately granted. Because there was no showing of actual demonstrated prejudice, the district court’s dismissal under Rule 41(b) was reversed, but the dismissal under Rule 40(c) was affirmed. View "Strong v. Intermountain Anesthesia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Alesa Easterling brought this medical malpractice suit against Respondent Eric Kendall, M.D., alleging that Kendall was negligent in failing to diagnose her with a carotid artery dissection, and that such misdiagnosis delayed her treatment and resulted in her suffering permanent neurological damage. At trial, the district court granted Kendall’s motion for a directed verdict. The district court concluded that Easterling failed to prove a medical malpractice claim because she failed to present expert testimony to show that Kendall’s misdiagnosis was the proximate cause of her injuries. Easterling appealed, contending that expert testimony was not required under Idaho law to prove proximate cause in a medical malpractice action. Additionally, Easterling appealed the district court’s orders excluding opinion testimony from Easterling’s retained expert and treating physicians on the issue of causation and denying her motion to present rebuttal opinion testimony on causation in her case in chief. Kendall requested attorney fees on appeal. As to Easterling's claims of error on appeal, the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. The Court found Kendall was not entitled to attorney fees on appeal. View "Easterling v. Kendall, M.D." on Justia Law

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John Wickel appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment dismissing his claims for medical malpractice against Dr. David Chamberlain. Wickel sought treatment from Dr. Chamberlain for internal and external hemorrhoids. After Wickel was anesthetized, Dr. Chamberlain discovered an anal fissure. Dr. Chamberlain believed, based upon his discussions with Wickel prior to surgery, that the best course was to treat the anal fissure while Wickel was under anesthesia in order to address all issues in one operation. Dr. Chamberlain performed a fissurectomy and an internal lateral sphincterotomy. Following surgery, Wickel experienced significant pain and developed a perianal abscess. Wickel had several post-operation appointments with Dr. Chamberlain to address ongoing pain. At Wickel’s March 3, 2010, appointment, Dr. Chamberlain noted that the abscess appeared healed and released Wickel from his care. The pain continued, and Wickel returned to Dr. Chamberlain’s office on March 17, 2010, at which time Dr. Chamberlain diagnosed Wickel with a chronic anal fistula and recommended colorectal surgery. Wickel then saw Drs. William Peche and Peter Bossart in Salt Lake City, Utah. Dr. Peche performed a procedure in June of 2010 and noted that the staple line from the PPH procedure was too close to the dentate line which resulted in physical damage to Wickel’s sphincter. After minimal improvement, Wickel saw Dr. Bossart. Dr. Bossart performed an anal fistulectomy in August of 2010. By 2012, Wickel still suffered discomfort and incontinence. An independent medical exam opined that Wickel’s pain following the surgery by Dr. Chamberlain was attributable to improper placement of the staple line within the anal canal. After the district court granted Dr. Chamberlain’s motion for summary judgment, Wickel moved for reconsideration, which the district court denied. Wickel appealed and Dr. Chamberlain cross-appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court remanded the matter to the district court for entry of a final judgment conforming to the requirements of I.R.C.P. 54(a), and Wickel filed a second motion for reconsideration. The district court denied Wickel’s second motion for reconsideration, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the motion. Following entry of a final judgment, both parties amended their notices of appeal. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the district court erred in concluding it lacked jurisdiction to decide the second motion for reconsideration; as a result, the district court did not reach the merits of Wickel's motion or Dr. Chamberlain's cross-appeal. The Supreme Court vacated the order denying Wickel’s second motion for reconsideration and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wickel v. Chamberlain" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a medical malpractice claim brought against a physician's assistant, two supervising physicians and Rocky Mountain Emergency Physicians, LLC. Plaintiff-Appellant Heather Hall went to the emergency room complaining of headache, blurred vision and sensitivity to light. The assistant examined her, and in the process, plaintiff alleged the assistant touched her inappropriately while trying to listen to plaintiff's heartbeat through a stethoscope. Plaintiff's medical expert opined that this conduct fell below the standard of care for a physician's assistant working in an emergency room in Pocatello. Rocky Mountain moved for summary judgment, arguing that the expert lacked proper foundation. The district court granted Rocky Mountain's motion and dismissed the suit. Finding no error in the district court judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hall v. Rocky Mtn Emergency Physicians" on Justia Law

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The State Board of Dentistry fined Plaintiff-Appellant Lon Peckham, DMD for failing to adequately inform a patient prior to performing a procedure, and for publishing misleading material on his website. The district court affirmed the Board's decision. On appeal, Plaintiff challenged the district court's affirming of the Board's final Order. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court found insufficient evidence to support findings that Plaintiff failed to inform a patient prior to performing a procedure or for publishing misleading material. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court. View "Peckham, DMD v. State Bd of Dentistry" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Thomas R. Taylor filed this action seeking to recover damages for alleged medical malpractice. Pursuant to Idaho Code section 6-1001, he then filed a request for a prelitigation screening panel four days later. The panel appointed regarding the alleged malpractice in this case conducted its proceedings and then issued its report on April 19, 2011. Although Plaintiff filed this action on January 20, 2011, he did not attempt to serve the summons and complaint upon any of the Defendants within six months after filing the complaint as mandated by Rule 4(a)(2) of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure. On August 16, 2011, defendant Eastern Idaho Health Services, Inc. filed a motion to dismiss this action as to it for the failure of Plaintiff to serve the summons and complaint upon it within the six-month period. Plaintiff filed a motion asking the district court to stay this lawsuit "nunc pro tunc from January 24, 2011, to April 19, 2011, or, alternatively, to extend [Plaintiff's] deadline for serving all Defendants to this lawsuit from July 19, 2011, to October 12, 2011." The district court entered an order denying Plaintiff's motions and granting the motions to dismiss filed by defendants. Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. Because the partial judgment was not yet final due to the fact that there was no judgment resolving the claims against the remaining defendants, the Supreme Court then issued a notice that the appeal would be dismissed. Plaintiff then filed an amended notice of appeal timely appealing both the initial judgment and the amended judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court: if there is not good cause for the failure to serve a defendant with the summons and complaint within six months after the complaint was filed, Rule 4(a)(2) states that "the action shall be dismissed as to the defendant without prejudice." Had Plaintiff served the Defendants before the prelitigation screening panel had completed its work, the worst that could have happened is that the district court would have stayed the court proceedings until after the panel had completed its work and for thirty days thereafter. Even if Plaintiff had thought he should wait until thirty days after the panel issued its report before serving the Defendants with a summons and complaint, he had from May 19, 2011, until July 20, 2011 to do so, but did not even attempt service during that time. View "Taylor v. Chamberlain" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Jerry Doherty appealed a district court order that dismissed him as a party in the medical malpractice action against respondents Dr. Gordon Dixon and Blackfoot Medical Clinic. The district court, on September 16, 2010, ruled that because Doherty failed to disclose this claim as an asset in his Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding, he was judicially estopped from pursuing this claim against Respondents. The district court further ordered that Doherty take nothing from Respondents, and that the bankruptcy trustee be substituted as the party-plaintiff. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court abused its discretion in granting summary judgment. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "McCallister v. Dixon" on Justia Law

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This appeal involed a medical malpractice claim brought against a chiropractor for negligently causing a patient to suffer a stroke after treatment. In 2007, Appellant Martha Arregui sought treatment for her neck and back pain from Respondent Dr. Rosalinda Gallegos-Main. Arregui originally alleged that Dr. Gallegos-Main owed her a duty to treat her in a medically competent manner under Idaho's Medical Malpractice Act, and failed to do so when Arregui was diagnosed several weeks later as having suffered a stroke after a neck manipulation by Dr. Gallegos-Main. Arregui filed suit against the chiropractor and the facility, Full Life Chiropractic, in 2009. Dr. Gallegos-Main deposed Arregui's expert witness and discovered that she had no knowledge of the local standard of care. Consequently, Dr. Gallegos-Main moved for summary judgment, arguing that Arregui failed to meet the requirements for establishing a claim for medical malpractice which requires expert testimony regarding the local standard of care. Three days after the deadline, Arregui filed her Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and included an affidavit from her expert with a sworn statement that she consulted a local chiropractor and was now familiar with the local standard of care. Dr. Gallegos-Main filed a Motion to Strike the affidavit as untimely and as a sham affidavit. Arregui unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration, arguing the court erred in striking her expert's affidavit and presented a new argument in the alternative that the court improperly granted summary judgment because the Medical Malpractice Act did not apply to chiropractors. The district court entered a final order denying the motion. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Arregui v. Gallegos-Main" on Justia Law

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This case came before the Supreme Court on appeal from a jury verdict entered in a wrongful death case in favor of Jose Aguilar, Guadalupe Aguilar, Alejandro Aguilar, Lorena Aguilar and Jose Aguilar, Jr. (collectively, "the Aguilars") against Dr. Nathan Coonrod, his employer Primary Health Care Center (Primary Health) and employees of Primary Health. On appeal Dr. Coonrod asserted that the district court abused its discretion in barring him from questioning the Aguilars' expert about his opinion as to the professional negligence of Dr. Chai and Dr. Long (two previous defendants who settled or were dismissed prior to trial) in their treatment of the decedent Maria Aguilar either on cross-examination or during his case in chief. Dr. Coonrod alleged that the district court also abused its discretion in forbidding him to read portions of Dr. Blaylock’s deposition into the record. Finally, Dr. Coonrod alleged that the district court erred in interpreting the statutory cap on non-economic damages as applying to each of the Aguilars individually instead of collectively. Upon review, the Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Dr. Coonrod's motion for a new trial, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in barring Dr. Coonrod from questioning the expert on the issue of the purported negligence of Drs. Chai and Long. Dr. Coonrod failed to properly disclose Dr. Blaylock as an expert he intended to call, and was thus barred from calling him during his case in chief. Furthermore, the Court held that the district court correctly found that the statutory limitation on noneconomic damages applied on a per claimant basis, rather than a per claim basis. View "Aguilar, Jr. v. Coonrod" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Janet Nightengale brought a medical malpractice action against emergency room doctor Defendant Dr. Kevin Timmel. Defendant failed to diagnose a clot in one Plaintiff's vascular arteries. That condition cut off circulation to Plaintiff's left arm, eventually requiring its amputation above the elbow. At trial, the jury returned a special verdict finding that Defendant had not breached the relevant standard of care in his treatment of Plaintiff. Plaintiff contended on appeal that the evidence presented was insufficient to support the special verdict. Upon review of the trial court record and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision in support of Defendant. View "Nightengale v. Timmel" on Justia Law