Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ decision reversing the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Defendants, the doctors and hospital in this medical negligence litigation, holding that there was no error in the trial court’s challenged ruling. After the trial court initially entered a judgment in favor of Defendants, the court of appeals reversed and ordered a new trial, concluding that the trial court had erroneously decided a Daubert issue. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the court of appeals for consideration of another issue that had not been addressed. On remand, the court of appeals again reversed, holding that the trial court erred by limiting an expert’s testimony. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the judgment, holding (1) the trial court did not err in limiting the expert’s testimony; and (2) even if the trial court erred in limiting the testimony, that error was harmless. View "Oliphant v. Ries" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court in favor of Jewish Hospital Medical Center South and reinstated the circuit court's judgment, holding that because Jewish Hospital’s motion for directed verdict was procedurally infirm the trial court erred in granting the directed verdict, but the error was harmless. Plaintiff brought suit against Jewish Hospital and Dr. Charles Sherrard. Dr. Sherrard settled the claims against him, and the case against Jewish Hospital proceeded to trial. Jewish Hospital moved for directed verdict on standard care as to Dr. Sherrard. The judge granted the motion. After the jury was provided with an instruction that Dr. Sherrard had fallen below the standard of care the jury returned a verdict for Jewish Hospital. The Court of Appeals reversed, determining that the trial court’s grant of directed verdict was erroneous and that a trial court cannot granted a directed verdict of negligence against an empty-chair defendant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a directed verdict by a present defendant against an empty-chair defendant falls under the rule set forth in CertainTeed Corp. v. Dexter, 330 S.W.3d 64 (Ky. 2010); and (2) although the trial court erred in granting the directed verdict, the error was harmless. View "Jewish Hospital v. House" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that because the Medical Review Panel Act, Ky. Rev. Stat. 216C delays access to the courts of the Commonwealth for the adjudication of common-law claims, chapter 216C violates Section 14 of the Kentucky Constitution. This case presented a legal challenge to chapter 216C, which establishes a mandatory process to delay certain medical-malpractice claimants’ ability to access immediately the Commonwealth courts by creating medical-review panels and requiring a panel’s opinion about the merits of the claimant’s proposed complaint against health-care providers before the claimant may file suit. The trial court declared the Act unconstitutional on several grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 216C violates section 14 of the Kentucky Constitution, which acts as a restraint on the power of all departments of state government infringing on the right of the people to seek immediate recess for common-law personal-injury claims. View "Commonwealth, Cabinet for Health & Family Services, ex rel. Meier v. Claycomb" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ decision to deny a writ of prohibition sought by Miki Thompson in this case alleging that Kara Vance’s suicide was caused by Timothy Lavender’s negligent prescribing of the acne medicine, Accutane. Lavender and Pikeville Dermatology served a subpoena duces tecum seeking production of records and reports pertaining to Vance held by Dr. Marilyn Cassis, Vance’s therapist. Dr. Cassis objected to production of these records without a court order, so Lavender and Pikeville Dermatology obtained a trial court order compelling compliance with the subpoena. Thompson then petitioned for a writ of prohibition, which the court of appeals denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its discovery order. View "Thompson v. Honorable Eddy Coleman" on Justia Law

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Contrary to the conclusion of the court of appeals in this medical malpractice action, Plaintiff’s failure to produce expert evidence was fatal to his claim and summary judgment was properly granted to Defendants. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendants were negligent in treating, or failing to treat, his illness while he was an inmate in the Hardin County Detention Center. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants on summary judgment because Plaintiff had no expert evidence to establish the relevant standards of care or to show that Defendants’ breach of the standard of care caused Plaintiff’s damages. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the negligent conduct asserted by Plaintiff fit within the res ipsa loquitur doctrine and thus could be supported at trial without expert opinion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in the absence of expert testimony to the contrary, Plaintiff’s evidence failed to create a genuine issue of material fact as to Defendants’ breach of a standard of care, and therefore, as a matter of law, Defendants were correctly granted summary judgment. View "Adams v. Sietsema" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s acknowledgement that she would not present an expert witness to prove her informed consent claim was not fatal to her case and thus was not a proper basis for entry of a directed verdict. Plaintiff brought this medical malpractice claim alleging that Defendant failed to obtain her informed consent before undertaking a surgical procedure on her. The trial court entered a directed verdict in favor of Defendant after Plaintiff conceded that she would not present an expert’s testimony. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred in dismissing the case too hastily since the evidence to be presented at trial may have established an exception to the general rule requiring expert testimony to establish a professional standard of care. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court erred in granting the directed verdict. View "Argotte v. Harrington" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the doctor (Defendant) who twice performed surgery on Plaintiff to repair a fracture, alleging (1) Defendant made mistakes during the initial surgery that resulted in the failure of the fracture to heal, and (2) following the second surgery, the doctor failed to timely identify an infection, which necessitated two additional surgeries. A trial ensued. The judge declared a mistrial because Defendant had mentioned insurance several times in violation of a court order. After a second trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the doctor. The court entered an order granting Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions given Defendant’s “contemptuous conduct” in the first trial and the fact that Defendant compounded his conduct in the second trial. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial but affirmed the imposition of sanctions against Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and vacated the trial court’s order imposing sanctions on Defendant, holding (1) the trial court did not err when it denied Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial; and (2) the trial court erred in failing to notify Defendant that it was finding him in contempt and whether the contempt was civil or criminal. View "Jefferson v. Eggemeyer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, a general surgeon, alleging that Defendant negligently performed a surgical procedure known as an anastomosis. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the fairness of her trial was compromised when the trial court mistakenly denied her request to subject the parties’ expert witnesses to the ordinary separation of witnesses rule - Ky. R. Evid. 615. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court abused its discretion by exempting the defense’s expert witnesses from sequestration without an adequate showing of need; but (2) the trial court’s error was harmless. View "McAbee v. Chapman" on Justia Law

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Tim Agee, individually and on the behalf of the estate of his wife, Eva, sued Baptist Health Richmond, Inc. and other medical care providers alleging that Eva’s death was the result of medical negligence. During discovery, Agee requested from Baptist Health the production of certain documents. Baptist Health refused to produce the documents, claiming that they were protected from disclosure by the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005. Agee filed a motion to compel, which the trial court granted in part. Thereafter, Baptist Health filed an original action in the court of appeals seeking a writ of prohibition. The court of appeals denied the request, citing the plurality opinion in Tibbs v. Bunnell. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s discovery order and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the correct result in this case lay in middle ground between the plurality and the dissenting opinions in Tibbs. Remanded with instructions for the trial court to undertake the review set forth in this opinion. View "Baptist Health Richmond, Inc. v. Hon. William Clouse" on Justia Law

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The executor of the estate of James Gray and Gray’s statutory survivors (collectively, the Estate) filed a complaint against Saint Joseph Hospital alleging that the Hospital had engaged in medical negligence in its treatment of Gray following two visits to the Hospital’s emergency room. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Estate. The circuit court awarded $1.45 million in punitive damages, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support an award of punitive damages; (2) the evidence established that the Hospital ratified its staff’s misconduct so as to authorize an award of punitive damages against it; (3) the jury was properly instructed regarding the Hospital’s liability based upon tortious conduct of the independent contractor physicians engaged to provide emergency room services; (4) the punitive damage award did not violate the Due Process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by not dismissing an alleged sleeping juror. View "Saint Joseph Healthcare, Inc. v. Thomas" on Justia Law