Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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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

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Pratikshya Gurung (“the Estate”) was born with brain damage and quadriplegia. The Estate filed in the circuit court a medical negligence action against Norton Hospital. During the course of discovery, the Estate requested production from Norton of various hospital documents relating to patient safety. Norton argued that the documents were not discoverable. The trial court compelled the production of the disputed documents and denied Norton’s privileged claim. Norton filed a petition in the court of appeals for a writ of prohibition and a request for an order staying execution of the trial court’s discovery order. The Estate, in turn, received an emergency hearing with the trial court. Before the hearing on Norton’s emergency motion in the court of appeals and after the Estate’s emergency hearing with the trial court, the trial court handed the copies of the disputed documents directly to counsel for the Estate. The court of appeals subsequently dismissed Norton’s writ petition as moot. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal, holding that the court of appeals abused its discretion because its decision was not based on sound legal principles. Remanded for consideration of Norton’s asserted privilege. View "Norton Hospitals, Inc. v. Hon. Barry Willett" on Justia Law

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Krystal Meredith was twenty years old and thirty-seven weeks pregnant when she began to experience abdominal pain. Krystal visited the Norton Hospital emergency three times in the next three days and was treated by Dr. James Haile. She was sent home following the first two visits but was admitted to the hospital after the third. Subsequent blood work revealed an ongoing infection. After Krystal gave birth to a healthy daughter under the care of Dr. Luis Velasco, it was discovered Krystal had a ruptured appendix and abscess. Krystal later developed acute respiratory distress syndrome and died. Plaintiffs, Krystal's parents, filed suit against Dr. Haile, Dr. Velasco, and the Hospital for wrongful death and loss of parental consortium. A jury found in favor of Defendants, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court twice erred in refusing to strike jurors for cause, and the error was not harmless. Remanded. View "Grubb v. Norton Hosps., Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant, the representative of a decedent's estate, hired attorneys David Mushlin and William Nefzger and their law firm to pursue a medical negligence claim against a hospital and several physicians. The trial court later disqualified Mushlin on the ground that Mushlin's prior representation of the hospital was sufficient to create a conflict of interest or at least the appearance of impropriety. The court also noted that Nefzger and the entire firm were conflicted because Mushlin could not effectively be screened from the case and there was a great likelihood of his having constant contact with the other attorneys who would be working on the case in his stead. Appellant subsequently filed a petition for a writ of prohibition, which the court of appeals denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to show she would suffer great injustice and irreparable injury from the trial court's order disqualifying her lawyer and his law firm from representing her. View "Robertson v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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This was a medical malpractice action brought by the administrator of the Estate of Mindi Tucker, who died of complications from an infection that developed after a caesarian delivery of her child. Her obstetrician was Dr. Susan Brunch, a member of Women's Care Physicians of Louisville, P.S.C. (collectively, Defendants). The claim of medical negligence centered on the failure to administer the antibiotic Cefotan during the delivery process, which the Estate alleged would have prevented the infection. The trial court ruled in favor of Defendants. At issue on appeal was whether the trial court erred in not allowing expert testimony on the meaning of the doctor's standing order regarding the antibiotic, and whether the Estate should have been allowed to impeach the doctor's expert witness with the deposition of another physician. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in (1) not allowing the expert testimony; and (2) not allowing impeachment of the doctor's expert witness by the use of the other physician's deposition, as the deposition did not impeach the expert. View "Tucker v. Women's Care Physicians of Louisville, P.S.C." on Justia Law

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This case began when Appellants brought an action against Appellee, a medical center, alleging medical malpractice in a surgical procedure. The first trial ended in a verdict favorable to Appellants. The trial court denied Appellee's subsequent motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) but granted Appellee's request for a new trial. The second trial resulted in a verdict even more favorable for Appellants. The court of appeals reversed and dismissed Appellants' claim, concluding that the trial court erred by failing to grant Appellee's motion for JNOV and granting the new trial instead. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, holding that the trial court properly exercised its discretion when it ordered the new trial and denied Appellee's request for JNOV. View "Savage v. Three Rivers Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

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This case interpreted Ky. Rev. Stat. 620.050, which provides civil and criminal immunity to the reporters of suspected child dependency, neglect, and abuse. On the basis of that immunity, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellants, Norton Hospitals, Neonatal Intensive Care Experts II, and Dr. Ketan Mehta, in a civil suit filed by Brandi Peyton for medical malpractice, negligence, and emotional distress, among other claims. Peyton alleged negligence in generating, interpreting, and reporting toxicology reports that showed Peyton had a high blood alcohol concentration the evening before giving birth to a baby. The court of appeals reversed, opining that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to who initiated the toxicology screening, which, in the court's view, affected the availability of immunity under sections 620.050(1) and 620.050(14). The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, holding (1) the trial court did not err in finding that there was no issue of material fact as to whether Appellants acted in good faith under Ky. Rev. Stat. 620.030 in reporting the toxicology reports; and (2) Appellants were therefore entitled to immunity under section 620.050(1) as a matter of law. Remanded. View "Norton Hosps., Inc. v. Peyton" on Justia Law

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Appellant filed a medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against Hospital after Appellant's husband, who had been admitted to a psychiatric unit in Hospital where suicide precautions were taken, hung himself and died. The circuit court court ordered the disclosure of various documents that Hospital claimed were protected by the attorney-client privilege. The court of appeals found the documents were privileged and granted Hospital's requested writ of prohibition stopping the circuit court from order the disclosure of the documents. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' order, holding that the writ was erroneously granted, as Hospital failed to show that the privilege applied. View "Collins v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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This was a medical malpractice claim for the wrongful death of Rosalie Stamper. At issue on appeal was a discovery violation question about the use of deposition testimony of a treating physician, who was originally a defendant in the case but was dismissed prior to trial. The trial court allowed the physician's deposition to be played to the jury, including a portion about Defendant's compliance with the standard of care, even though Plaintiff argued that the physician had not been identified as an expert witness and no Ky. R. Civ. P. 26 information had been provided about his testimony. The jury found for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed, finding the Defendant had not complied with the language or spirit of Rule 26. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the trial court erred when in admitting the testimony without considering the effect of the requirements of Rule 26 and without considering the admissibility of the proposed "expert" testimony as to standard of care; but (2) the error was harmless. View "Hashmi v. Kelly" on Justia Law