Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
by
In 2002, in Texas, Dr. Phillips performed a laparoscopic hysterectomy on Bramlett, a 36-year-old mother. While hospitalized, Bramlett suffered internal bleeding and died. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital and Dr. Phillips, who held a $200,000 professional liability insurance policy with MedPro. He notified MedPro of the lawsuit. In 2003, the hospital settled with the Bramletts for approximately $2.3 million. The Bramletts wrote to Dr. Phillips’s attorney, Davidson, with a $200,000 Stowers demand; under Texas law, if an insurer rejects a plaintiff's demand that is within the insured’s policy limit and that a reasonably prudent insurer would accept, the insurer will later be liable for any amount awarded over the policy limit. MedPro twice refused to settle. The family won a $14 million verdict. The Supreme Court of Texas capped Dr. Phillips’s liability. The family sued MedPro, which settled. MedPro was insured by AISLIC, which declined to cover MedPro’s settlement. The district court granted AISLIC summary judgment, concluding that coverage was excluded because MedPro should have foreseen the family’s claim. An exclusion precluded coverage for “any claim arising out of any Wrongful Act” which occurred prior to June 30, 2005, if before that date MedPro “knew or could have reasonably foreseen that such Wrongful Act could lead to a claim.” The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, finding genuine issues of material fact regarding whether MedPro’s failure to settle was a Wrongful Act and whether MedPro could have foreseen a "claim" before the malpractice trial. View "Medical Protective Co. of Fort Wayne, Indiana v. American International Specialty Lines Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Pharmacist Joseph McNamara, Jr. appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Benchmark Insurance Company ("Benchmark") in Benchmark's indemnity action against McNamara. Benchmark commenced the indemnity action in an effort to recover funds expended to settle a medical-malpractice action brought against Southern Medical, Inc., Benchmark's insured and McNamara's employer. The medical-malpractice action was brought against Southern Medical by Ricky Avant and Kim Avant and was based, at least in part, on the alleged tortious acts and omissions of McNamara. Because the act complained of occurred in January 2010 and Benchmark sued McNamara in February 2014, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Benchmark's indemnity action was time-barred under section 6-5-482, Ala. Code 1975. Thus, the trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Benchmark and in denying McNamara's motion for a summary judgment. View "McNamara v. Benchmark Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Essex issued a professional liability insurance policy to Galilee Medical Center, covering claims against Galilee physicians, including Angarita. Galilee’s application asked, “Do[] the Applicant’s employees or independent contractors use drugs for weight reduction for patients?” Galilee answered no. The question continued: “If yes, attach a list of drugs used and percentage of practice devoted to weight reduction.” Galilee did not identify any drugs. Galilee also answered “no” to whether its employees performed any experimental procedures and to “With the exception of surgery for obesity, does your practice include weight reduction or control by other [sic] than diet or exercise? 5.(b) Do you dispense any drugs? 5.(c) Do you use injections for weight control? 9.(a) Do you use experimental procedures, devices, drugs, or therapy in treatment or surgery?” In 2011, Ravelo, Angarita’s former patient, sued Angarita and Galilee for medical negligence based on mesotherapy treatments administered by Angarita. Mesotherapy is a non-surgical treatment involving injections into subcutaneous layers of fat, to dissolve deposits of fat and provide a more desirable body shape. Mesotherapy is not FDA-approved. Angarita admitted to providing mesotherapy treatment to more than 5,000 patients, including Ravelo. Essex denied coverage and sought a declaratory judgment rescinding the Policy. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Essex, based on the misrepresentations in the applications. View "Essex Ins. Co. v. Angarita" on Justia Law

by
In 1997, Dr. Michael Hayes and Dr. Michael Taillon were working as emergency room physicians at Providence Hospital, presumably as independent contractors. Arthur Sharpe came to the Providence Hospital emergency room complaining of chest pain. Dr. Hayes and Dr. Taillon evaluated Sharpe and diagnosed him as suffering from reflux. Sharpe was discharged. Sharpe had actually suffered a heart attack, which was determined a few days later when he sought further medical care elsewhere. Because of the misdiagnosis, in 1999, Sharpe and his wife filed a medical malpractice and loss of consortium action against Providence Hospital and Dr. Hayes. The Sharpes did not name Dr. Taillon as a defendant. Providence Hospital settled with the Sharpes in 2004. In 2007, Providence Hospital filed this equitable indemnification action against Dr. Taillon and his medical malpractice insurer, The South Carolina Medical Malpractice Liability Joint Underwriting Association (collectively Respondents). Respondents moved for summary judgment on the ground that the medical malpractice statute of repose barred Providence Hospital's claim and the circuit court granted the motion on that basis. Providence Hospital appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the medical malpractice statute of repose applied to Providence Hospital's indemnity claim. The Court concluded that Providence Hospital's indemnity action was indeed barred by the statute of repose, and as such affirmed the trial court. View "Columbia/CSA-HS Greater Columbia Healthcare System v. So. Carolina Medical Malpractice Liability Joint Underwriting Association" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner, West Virginia Mutual Insurance Company, Inc. (WVMIC), was a professional medical liability insurer that insured physicians, medical practices and others in West Virginia. The medical malpractice claims underlying the current dispute were asserted by Respondents against their surgeon’s former employer, United Health Professional, Inc. (UHP), a medical corporation insured under a medical malpractice policy issued by WVMIC for the year 2010. Under the terms of a global settlement agreement, WVMIC tendered $3 million to Respondents under an extended reporting endorsement insuring the surgeon. The settlement further provided that Respondents and WVMIC would abide by a judicial determination as to whether additional insurance limits were available for Respondents’ vicarious liability claims against UHP. The circuit court concluded that there was an additional $6 million in policy limits available for Respondents’ claims against UHP. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that UHP has a total of $3 million in separate policy limits under the 2010 policy for Respondents’ claims asserted against it, which amount was in addition to the $3 million that WVMIC previously tendered under the global settlement agreement for the claims asserted against the surgeon. Remanded. View "W. Va. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Adkins" on Justia Law

by
Susan and Rodney Drown filed a medical malpractice action against Associated Women’s Health Specialists, P.C. (Health Specialists) asserting vicarious liability claims arising from the acts or omissions of its physicians. During the relevant period, Health Specialists was insured through a professional liability policy issued by Medical Inter-Insurance Exchange (Exchange). Health Specialists settled for the full amount of the policy and assigned to the Drowns its rights to recover against Exchange. Health Specialists was subsequently declared insolvent, and the Connecticut Insurance Guaranty Association (Association) assumed liability for the Exchange’s obligations. The Association then commenced this declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that it had no obligations for the Drowns’ claims. Defendants, the Drowns and Health Specialists, counterclaimed. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Appellate Court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Exchange’s preinsolvency breach of its duty to defend Health Specialists did not estop the Association from challenging its liability under the policy; and (2) the policy unambiguously did not cover Health Specialists for its vicarious liability in this case. View "Conn. Ins. Guar. Ass’n v. Drown" on Justia Law

by
White Oak Manor, Inc. owns and operates a nursing home in York. After sustaining injuries from the improper replacement of a feeding tube, a White Oak resident filed a lawsuit against the nursing home. White Oak ultimately settled the lawsuit without the involvement of its insurer, Lexington Insurance Company. White Oak subsequently filed a declaratory judgment action against Lexington to determine coverage for the malpractice claim. The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court concerned the validity of a service-of-suit clause in an insurance policy in light of Section 15-9-270 of the South Carolina Code (2005) which provides for service of process on an insurer through the Director of the Department of Insurance. The circuit court upheld the service-of-suit clause and refused to relieve the insurer from default judgment. The court of appeals reversed, holding section 15-9-270 provided the exclusive method for serving an insurance company. In its review, the Supreme Court disagreed that section 15-9-270 provided the exclusive means of service on an insurer and held that insurance policy provisions creating alternative methods of service are valid and binding on insurers. Accordingly, the court of appeals' decision was reversed. View "White Oak Manor v. Lexington Insurance Company" on Justia Law

by
Physicians Liability Insurance Company (PLICO) insured Defendant Mark Valentine pursuant to a claims made policy with a policy period from July 1, 2004, to December 31, 2006. On November 1, 2004, Valentine operated on David Wurtz. As a result of Valentine's negligence during the operation, Wurtz died. On March 10, 2005, the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure held a hearing to determine whether Valentine should be disciplined. At the hearing, the Board revoked Valentine's license. On March 22, 2005, PLICO notified Valentine by letter that the policy had been cancelled effective March 10, 2005, with "Company's Decision" stated as the reason for cancellation and offered to sell him tail coverage. That letter was followed by another that addressed the premium refund issues and stated that the policy had been cancelled at Valentine's request. On June 2, 2005, Wurtz' personal representative, Tracey Chandler, filed suit against Valentine and others for the wrongful death of Wurtz. Valentine forwarded the petition and summons served on him to PLICO; PLICO sent Valentine a letter denying coverage because the claim was not made until after the policy was cancelled and asserting the policy exclusion for acts performed while under the influence of intoxicating substances. Valentine's debts were discharged in bankruptcy in early 2006. Chandler filed a motion for summary judgment against Valentine; Valentine entered into a Consent Judgment with Chandler in the amount of $2,250,000.00. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Chandler and ruled that Valentine was entitled to a set off by virtue of settlements with other parties in the amount of $1,275,000.00. Chandler filed garnishment proceedings against PLICO in May of 2008. Chandler asserted that Valentine was indebted to Chandler. PLICO denied any indebtedness asserting a lack of coverage under any insurance policy. Both Chandler and PLICO filed motions for summary judgment in the garnishment action. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Chandler, holding that cancellation of the policy violated section 3625 of title 36 and was therefore void. The issue in this matter was whether an insurer may agree to cancel a "claims made" policy with the knowledge that a potential claim is pending without violating the statutory prohibition on retroactive annulment of an insurance policy following the injury, death, or damage for which the insured may be liable. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that it may not and affirmed the trial court. View "Chandler v. Valentine" on Justia Law

by
Dustin Watkins suffered an in utero stroke approximately two days before he was born (in 1990), allegedly arising out of the medical malpractice of the treating obstetrician, Dr. Richard Barry, which resulted in a brain injury. This medical malpractice action followed, and a November 2003 trial resulted in multiple damage awards. At issue in this case was the extent to which the Louisiana Patient's Compensation Fund (PCF) continued to be obligated to make advance payments for custodial/attendant care for a medical malpractice victim, after receiving information indicating that such care may no longer be needed, and whether the PCF had the right to unilaterally terminate such payments, without prior court approval, when a judgment was previously rendered ordering it to make said payments. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that when the PCF denies a claim for payment of a future medical or related expense and the district court thereafter exercises its continuing jurisdiction and issues a ruling as to that matter, the PCF is obligated to comply with the district court's ruling, order, or judgment unless it modified or set aside by the court. View "Watkins v. Lake Charles Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

by
Pearl Archambault died while in the care of Haven Health Center of Greenville (Haven Health) after a nurse mistakenly administered a lethal overdose of morphine. The administratrix of her estate, Plaintiff, filed a medical malpractice action against Haven Health. Health Haven subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Thereafter, Plaintiff amended her complaint to add Columbia Casualty Company, the professional liability insurer of Health Haven, as a defendant and asserted two counts against Columbia directly based on R.I. Gen. Laws 27-7-2.4, which permits an injured party to proceed against an insurer when the insured has filed for bankruptcy. The superior court entered default judgment against Haven Health. The court then granted summary judgment in favor of Columbia. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter judgment against Columbia, holding that the superior court erred in interpreting Rhode Island law and that the insurance contract between Columbia and Health Haven should be construed in Plaintiff's favor. View "Peloquin v. Haven Health Ctr. of Greenville, LLC" on Justia Law