Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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Petitioners Dr. Troy Pierce and the Bone & Joint Center petitioned for a supervisory writ following the district court's denial of their motion to dismiss. In 2015, Robert Carvell was injured in a vehicle accident. Carvell arrived at the Emergency Department at St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck, where the staff took note of Carvell's injuries. Carvell claimed Petitioners were negligent in failing to treat his fractured and dislocated right middle or third finger. The North Dakota Supreme Court cautiously exercises its supervisory jurisdiction to prevent injustice in extraordinary cases where there is no adequate alternative remedy. Under N.D.C.C. 28-01-46, an occurrence is not obvious if it takes place during a technical surgical procedure and is beyond the understanding of a layperson. The Court was "left with a definite and firm conviction" the district court clearly erred in concluding the obvious occurrence exception contained within N.D.C.C. 28-01-46 applied. Dr. Pierce's interrogatory answer and the report following the May 2015 surgery clearly established the alleged professional negligence occurred during a technical surgical procedure outside the plain knowledge of a layperson. Because the obvious occurrence exception applied only to cases that are plainly within the knowledge of a layperson, the district court erred in its factual determination that the exception applied. In the absence of an obvious occurrence, the district court erred as a matter of law in denying the Petitioners' motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court granted Petitioners' request for a supervisory writ and directed the district court to enter a judgment dismissing Carvell's complaint against Petitioners. View "Pierce v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Under N.D.C.C. 28-01-46, the plain, ordinary and commonly understood meaning of the phrase "wrong organ" requires a doctor to perform a procedure on the incorrect organ; a wrong organ exception does not apply to performing an allegedly incorrect procedure on the correct organ. In 2014, Roxane and Tim Cartwright sued Dr. Beverly Tong and Great Plains Women's Health Center alleging professional negligence stemming from a medical procedure performed following a caesarean section. Defendant Tong performed a salpingectomy, removing Roxane Cartwright's fallopian tubes, rather than performing a tubal ligation, as Roxane Cartwright had consented to. As a proximate result of the negligence of Defendant Tong, Plaintiff alleged she was permanently sterilized and no longer able to bear children, nor could she have the ability to reverse the procedure in order to bear children, as she would have had, if a tubal ligation had been performed. The Cartwrights appealed a district court order and judgment dismissing their complaint without prejudice. The Cartwrights argued the district court erred in dismissing their complaint because the "obvious occurrence" and "wrong organ" exceptions to N.D.C.C. 28-01-46 applied to their claim. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order and judgment. View "Cartwright v. Tong, M.D." on Justia Law

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Mechele Greene appealed a district court's judgment dismissing her claim without prejudice for failure to serve an affidavit from an expert witness on Gary Matthys, M.D., within three months of commencing the action under N.D.C.C. 28-01-46. In 2013, Matthys performed a revision left total hip arthroplasty involving the femoral component, femoral head, and acetabular liner. In late 2015, Greene commenced this medical negligence action by serving a summons and complaint on Matthys. Matthys answered, denying that either he or any of his employees were the "proximate or legal cause of any alleged injury, loss or damage claimed by Plaintiff." Greene's attorney disclosed the existence of an expert witness willing to testify on Greene's behalf in a letter to Matthys' attorney in early 2016. Matthys moved to dismiss Greene's claim under N.D.C.C. 28-01-46, arguing Greene failed to provide an affidavit from an expert witness within three months of commencing this action. Greene opposed the motion. After review, the Supreme Court concluded, as to the use of the term "affidavit," N.D.C.C. 28-01-46 was clear on its face; the statute required Greene to serve Matthys with an affidavit from an expert; and Greene did not met the requirements of N.D.C.C. 28-01-46 as a matter of law. Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing Greene's claim against Matthys. View "Greene v. Matthys" on Justia Law