Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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Holly and Robert Labair filed a legal malpractice claim for Steve Carey and Carey Law Firm (collectively, Carey) related to Carey’s representation of them in a medical malpractice action. The district court granted summary judgment to Carey. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the district court for a trial to establish two required components of the damages element of the Labairs’ claim: (1) that it was more probable than not that they would have recovered a settlement or judgment but for Carey’s negligence, and (2) the value of the lost settlement and/or judgment. After a trial, the jury indicated that the Labairs would not have settled the underlying medical malpractice claim. The district court formally entered judgment in favor of Carey. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the district court erred in instructing the jury to decide whether Plaintiffs would have settled the underlying medical malpractice suit. Remanded for a new trial on the question of the value of the lost opportunity to settle. View "Labair v. Carey" on Justia Law

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Tina McColl filed a complaint against Michael Lang, N.D., a licensed naturopathic physician, after Lang used black salve to remove a blemish on Lang’s nose, which resulted in an infected third degree burn on McColl’s nose. The jury found Lang departed from the standard of care in his treatment of McColl, which resulted in damages. The jury, however, unanimously denied punitive damages. McColl appealed, seeking a new trial on the issue of punitive damages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it (1) granted Lang’s motion to exclude evidence of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibition against selling, marketing, or manufacturing drugs not FDA approved and the FDA warning letters regarding the use of black salve as a cure for cancer; and (2) denied McColl’s motion to exclude the testimony of Lang’s expert on the standard of care for a naturopathic physician. View "McColl v. Lang" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff underwent foot surgery in 2010. Following the surgery, Defendant, who performed the surgery, placed Plaintiff in an othotic boot and instructed him to return for post-operative care. After two post-operative appointments, Plaintiff did not return to Defendant’s office for a third appointment and continued wearing the boot for almost three years. Consequently, Plaintiff experienced foot, leg and back pain, and difficulty walking. Plaintiff sued Defendant for medical malpractice and violations of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), among other claims. After a jury trial, judgment was entered for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion by excluding Plaintiff’s proposed expert witness on the grounds that the expert witness was statutorily qualified to offer negligence or standard of care testimony against Defendants in this case; and (2) did not err in granting Defendants summary judgment on Plaintiff’s CPA claims. View "Hastie v. Alpine" on Justia Law

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The Labairs lost their newborn baby after an early delivery by C-section. The Labairs retained Steve Carey and Carey Law Firm (Carey) to pursue their medical malpractice claim against their obstetrician. More than two and a half years later, Carey filed a complaint against the obstetrician. However, Carey failed to file an application with the Montana Medical Legal Panel (MMLP) before filing a complaint with the district court as required by statute and further failed to file an MMLP application within the three-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice claims. The district court later dismissed the Labairs' medical malpractice case with prejudice as time-barred by the statute of limitations. The Labairs subsequently filed a complaint for legal malpractice against Casey. The district court entered summary judgment for Carey, concluding that Carey's conduct of failing to file the application with the MMLP did not cause the Labairs injury or damages because the Labairs failed to show that the underlying medical malpractice claims would have succeeded but for the error. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) the Labairs' loss of their medical malpractice case was an injury; and (2) the damages associated with that injury remained unproven. View "Labair v. Carey " on Justia Law

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Plaintiff gave birth to Child at Hospital. Complications arose prior to and after Child's delivery, leading to problems with Child's brain development. Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of Child, later sued the doctor who delivered Child and Hospital. Plaintiff subsequently settled her claims with the doctor. The district court granted summary judgment to Hospital on all of Plaintiff's claims. This appeal arose out of pre-trial rulings made by the district court in Plaintiff's litigation with Hospital. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) extending discovery deadlines; (2) granting summary judgment to Hospital on Plaintiff's agency claims; (3) granting summary judgment to Hospital on Plaintiff's Consumer Protection Act Claim; (4) granting summary judgment to Hospital on Plaintiff's joint venture claim; and (5) granting summary judgment to Hospital on Plaintiff's negligent credentialing claim. View "Brookins v. Mote" on Justia Law

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Katherine Beehler-Goodson was the mother of minor children E.G. and R.G., the wife of Plaintiff Robert Goodson, and the sister of Plaintiff Tony Beehler. While Katherine was undergoing a myelogram, bacteria were introduced into her cerebrospinal fluid, resulting in a meningitis infection, which caused her death. Plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice claim against Eastern Radiological Associates; Dr. Anne Giuliano, the radiologist who performed the myelogram; and St. Vincent Healthcare, alleging that Dr. Giuliano negligently failed to wear a mask during the myelogram, which resulted in bacteria traveling from Dr. Giuliano's uncovered mouth into Katherine's spinal column. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, finding (1) Plaintiff's proposed expert witness, Dr. Patrick Joseph, was not qualified to offer expert testimony on the applicable standards of care, breach, or causation; and (2) without Dr. Joseph's expert testimony, Plaintiffs lacked the necessary expert witness to establish the elements of medical negligence. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the court abused its discretion by excluding Dr. Joseph's testimony on the applicable standards of care and causation. View "Beehler v. E. Radiological Assocs., P.C." on Justia Law

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After giving birth to a newborn who suffered severe developmental issues resulting from a lack of glucose, Joe and Kathryn Norris (Norris) filed a medical malpractice action against, among others, Dr. Blayne Fritz, a physician who cared for the newborn. The morning before trial, Fritz moved to limit the scope of the testimony of Dr. Tom Strizich, the treating pediatrician, arguing that Norris failed to provide sufficient notice as to Strizich's opinions regarding a newborn's blood glucose level. The district court granted Fritz's motion, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Fritz. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to the district court to vacate its judgment and order a new trial, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it excluded Strizich's testimony regarding the appropriate standard of care where (1) Strizich was a hybrid witness for purposes of standard of care testimony; and (2) Fritz could not reasonably claim surprise or prejudice from Strizich's proposed testimony. View "Norris v. Fritz" on Justia Law

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After Madeleine Willson died of metastatic breast cancer and acute aspiration pneumonia, Robert Willson filed a complaint against Benefis Hospitals, Peace Hospice, and Dr. T. Brice Addison for medical malpractice. Robert alleged that the administration of medication expedited Madeleine's death and that Madeleine did not give informed consent to administration of the medications. Benefis filed two motions for summary judgment, the first of which argued that Robert had failed to establish causation through qualified expert testimony. Robert filed a motion for summary judgment seeking default judgment as a sanction for Benefis' alleged spoliation of evidence. The district court granted summary judgment on the issue of causation in favor of Benefis and Dr. Addison. The court denied Robert's motion, finding Robert failed to prove spoliation. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Benefis and Dr. Addison, and (2) although the district court denied Robert's motion for summary judgment for the wrong reason, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion where sanctions were not appropriate. View "In re Estate of Willson v. Addison" on Justia Law