Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of two California statutes— Civil Code section 3333.2, which caps the number of damages a plaintiff may recoup for noneconomic losses at $250,000 (Civ. Code, Section 3333.2, subd. (b)); and Business and Professions Code section 6146, which sets limits on the amount of contingency fees a law firm may charge in representing a plaintiff in a professional negligence action against a health care provider. (Civ. Code, Section 3333.2 and Bus. & Prof. Code, Section 6146 are sometimes referred to collectively as the challenged statutes.)   The Fifth Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s judgment of dismissal. The court held that Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge civil code section 3333.2 and Business and Professions Code Section 6146. Further, the court held that the heirs do not have standing because the heir’s alleged injuries are insufficient to confer upon them standing to challenge the statutes in question. Moreover, the court could not conclude Plaintiffs will suffer hardship if declaratory relief is withheld. View "Dominguez v. Bonta" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court substituting the United States as a defendant in the place of the physician that Plaintiff originally sued for wrongful death and vacated the district court's subsequent grant of the Government's motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that gaps in the evidentiary record must be filled by further proceedings in the district court.Plaintiff brought a wrongful death action in state court alleging medical malpractice against a physician who worked for a federally-funded health center. Plaintiff's decedent, the patient, was unaffiliated with the health center. When the United States removed the action to federal court it sought to substitute itself for the physician as a defendant. The district court invoked the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988 (the Westfall Act), 28 U.S.C. 2679, made the substitution, and dismissed the complaint. The First Circuit vacated the judgment below, holding that because the district court repudiated its earlier reliance on the Waterfall Act, new issues that have emerged must now be resolved. View "O'Brien v. United States" on Justia Law

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Appellee Linda Reibenstein undisputedly brought her claims against Appellant Patrick Conaboy, M.D., after the two-year period had run, and the death certificate undisputedly and correctly noted the medical cause of Reibenstein’s decedent’s death. The trial court ruled that the phrase “cause of death” referred specifically and only to the direct medical cause of death. Accordingly, it granted summary judgment to Dr. Conaboy under Section 513(d) of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (“MCARE”). The Superior Court reversed, interpreting “cause of death” more broadly to encompass considerations associated with the manner of death (i.e., legal cause). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that MCARE’s tolling provision could not bear the breadth of that reading, and reversed. View "Reibenstein v. Barax" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a negligent credentialing is a separate and independent claim from medical negligence but that a negligent credentialing claim cannot proceed without either a simultaneous or prior adjudication of or stipulation to medical negligence.At issue was whether a hospital's grant of staff privileges to a physician, otherwise known as credentialing a physician, confers a duty upon the hospital that is separate and independent of the duty the physical owes to the hospital's patients. If so, the question remained whether a patient's negligent credentialing claim can proceed in the absence of a prior adjudication or stipulation that the physician was negligent in his care of the patient. The trial court in this case granted the hospital's motion for summary judgment on the negligent credentialing claim. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a negligent credentialing claim cannot proceed without either a simultaneous or prior adjudication of or stipulation that a doctor committed medical malpractice; and (2) because such an adjudication or stipulation was not present in this case, the negligent credentialing claim was properly dismissed. View "Walling v. Brenya" on Justia Law

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This case presented the questions of whether and how Alaska Statute 09.55.548(b) applied when the claimant’s losses were compensated by an employer’s self-funded health benefit plan governed by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Alaska Supreme Court concluded that an ERISA plan did not fall within the statute’s “federal program” exception. Therefore AS 09.55.548(b) required a claimant’s damages award to be reduced by the amount of compensation received from an ERISA plan. But the Supreme Court also concluded that the distinction the statute draws between different types of medical malpractice claimants was not fairly and substantially related to the statute’s purpose of ensuring claimants do not receive a double recovery — an award of damages predicated on losses that were already compensated by a collateral source. "Because insurance contracts commonly require the insured to repay the insurer using the proceeds of any tort recovery, claimants with health insurance are scarcely more likely to receive a double recovery than other malpractice claimants. The statute therefore violates the equal protection guarantee of the Alaska Constitution." View "Knolmayer, et al. v. McCollum" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed from a judgment entered in favor of Defendant, on Plaintiff’s action for medical malpractice after the trial court denied her motion under Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79 (Batson) and People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258 (Wheeler). At issue on appeal is whether under California law an attorney may properly strike a prospective juror based on the disability of the juror’s family member. Historically Batson/Wheeler motions have been analyzed, as the trial court did here, in terms of whether the justification for excusing a prospective juror is race-neutral. However, in 2015 the Legislature expanded the scope of cognizable groups protected under Batson/Wheeler by its enactment of Assembly Bill No. 87 (2015-2016 Reg. Sess.) Section 1 (Assembly Bill 87).   On appeal, Plaintiff argued that Defendant’s striking of the two prospective jurors based on the disabilities of their family members was itself based on protected characteristics. The Second Appellate District reversed the trial court's judgment. The court explained that there is no dispute that the justifications provided for excusing the two jurors were their association with disabled family members. Defendant’s attorney stated that because one of the juror’s children was disabled, Defendant’s attorney “felt that this particular juror may be too sympathetic to this particular plaintiff to make a reasonable decision on the evidence.” Accordingly, the Second Appellate District agreed with Plaintiff and reversed the trial court’s ruling and direct the trial court to vacate its order denying the Batson/Wheeler motion and to enter a new order granting the motion and setting the matter for a new trial. View "Unzueta v. Akopyan" on Justia Law

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Premier Plastic Surgery, P.C. ("Premier") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Premier's motion for a change of venue in this medical-malpractice action brought by plaintiff Deborah Bush, and to enter an order transferring the action to the Shelby Circuit Court. Premier offered cosmetic and reconstructive surgery at its medical facility located in Shelby County. Bush went to Premier's medical facility to receive a consultation from Dr. Peter Van Hoy. It is undisputed that all of Bush's treatment by Dr. Van Hoy occurred at Premier's medical facility. In December 2017, Dr. Van Hoy died. Because he was Premier's sole shareholder, director, and owner, Premier was dissolved in September 2018. In June 2019, Bush filed suit at the Jefferson Circuit Court relating to her surgical procedure and treatment by Dr. Van Hoy. Bush's complaint also alleged that she was a resident of Jefferson County. Premier denied all allegations and argued that because the surgical procedure and treatment at issue in Bush's action occurred at Premier's medical facility in Shelby County, venue was proper in Shelby County. In her response to Premier's motion, Bush did not dispute that Shelby County was the proper venue for the action. Instead, she argued that because Premier's motion was filed almost three years after the litigation began and only three weeks before the scheduled trial, the motion cannot be deemed timely. The Supreme Court concurred that Premier's challenge to venue had been waived and denied the petition for mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Premier Plastic Surgery, P.C." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified a question of law to the Alabama Supreme Court. Dr. Dino Ferrante, a gastroenterologist, prescribed LIALDA, which is manufactured by Shire U.S., Inc., and Shire, LLC (referred to collectively as "Shire"), to help patient Mark Blackburn with his Crohn's disease. "LIALDA is the brand name for Shire's mesalamine drug, which is an anti-inflammatory drug specifically aimed at the gut. LIALDA is not approved by the FDA to treat Crohn's, but it is approved to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn's 'sister' disease." After taking LIALDA for between 12 to 16 months, Blackburn discovered that he had developed kidney disease, specifically advanced chronic interstitial nephritis, which had resulted in irreversible scarring and had diminished his kidney function to 20% of normal capacity. As a result, Blackburn is awaiting a kidney transplant. The federal appellate court asked: (1) consistent with the learned intermediary doctrine, may a pharmaceutical company's duty to warn include a duty to provide instructions about how to mitigate warned-of risks?; and (2) might a plaintiff establish that a failure to warn caused his injuries by showing that his doctor would have adopted a different course of testing or mitigation, even though he would have prescribed the same drug? The Supreme Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Blackburn v. Shire U.S., Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Appellant is a severely disabled child whose congenital abnormalities went undetected during his mother’s pregnancy until after viability. Appellant sued various medical providers for wrongful life, settling with one in 2018. The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) asserted a lien on Appellant's settlement to recover what DHCS paid for Appellant's care. The trial court awarded DHCS the full amount of the lien and Appellant appealed.The Second Appellate District reversed. Although the court rejected Appellant's claim that the DHCS lien is preempted by federal law and that there is no substantial evidence that Appellant's settlement included payments for past medical expenses, the Second Appellate District found that the trial court erred by failing to distinguish between past medical expenses and other damages. View "Daniel C. v. White Memorial Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Two doctors missed Plaintiff’s cancer: Dr. P.J. in March 2015, and Dr. J.B in January 2018. After another doctor eventually discovered cancer, Plaintiff sued both Dr. P.J and Dr. J.B., arguing that their negligence reduced his chance of surviving. The jury returned a favorable verdict for Dr. J.B and Plaintiff moved for a mistrial based on the district court’s evidentiary rulings. The court denied that motion and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the district court should have granted his motion for a new trial for three reasons. First, he says that the testimony about Dr. P.J.’s diagnosis was irrelevant and prejudicial. He next argued that the district court improperly allowed Exhibits S, T, and U to be referenced at trial. Those exhibits are hearsay, but the district court held that they fell within an exception under Federal Rule of Evidence 803. Finally, Plaintiff claimed that even if Rule 803(18) applies to Exhibits S, T, and U, those exhibits still should not have been received by the jury.The court held that the district court’s finding was not a clear abuse of discretion. While it is a close call, the record contained enough evidence for a jury to properly find that Plaintiff failed to meet his burden of proof. The court explained that the district court, which “is in the best position to determine the impact evidence will have upon the jury,” did not abuse its discretion in finding that the jury wasn’t prejudiced by the disputed evidence. View "Steve Williams v. Jeremy Baum" on Justia Law