Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Bennett v. United States
In the case presented, plaintiff Bette Bennett alleged that she suffered a traumatic brain injury due to medical negligence by the defendant, the United States. However, the cause of her injury was not diagnosed until after the eight-year statute of repose for medical malpractice actions under Washington law had expired, making it impossible for her to timely commence her lawsuit. The United States moved to dismiss her complaint as time-barred.The Supreme Court of the State of Washington was asked to decide whether the statute of repose violates certain provisions of the Washington Constitution. The court held that while the legislature has broad authority to set time limits for commencing an action, the eight-year statute of repose for medical malpractice actions under RCW 4.16.350(3) violates the privileges and immunities clause of article I, section 12 of the Washington Constitution. The court reasoned that the statute implicates the fundamental right of state citizenship by limiting the pursuit of common law claims against certain defendants, but it does not satisfy the "reasonable ground" test under the state constitution. Therefore, the court concluded that the statute of repose is unconstitutional under independent state law. The court declined to reach the second certified question regarding whether the statute of repose unconstitutionally restricts a plaintiff's right to access the courts in violation of the Washington Constitution. View "Bennett v. United States" on Justia Law
Bowers v. BBH SBMC, LLC
In Alabama, an attorney was representing three individuals, Charles, John, and Linda Evans, in relation to a car accident. Following the accident, Charles was taken to Shelby Baptist Medical Center and discharged. He subsequently collapsed at home and died. The attorney filed a complaint asserting medical malpractice, negligence, wantonness, and recklessness on behalf of John as next friend of Charles. Eventually, an insurance company provided a settlement check and a general release relating to Charles. However, this check was signed by John and not Charles' personal representative, Bowers, who had been appointed after Charles' death. The trial court ruled that the settlement was binding on Bowers, and all claims against the defendants were dismissed.Bowers appealed, and the Supreme Court of Alabama partially reversed the trial court's decision. It ruled that the trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of the malpractice defendants without a motion from them and without holding an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the attorney had express or apparent authority to settle the wrongful-death claim against Short. The court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of Short with respect to John's and Linda's individual claims. The case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Bowers v. BBH SBMC, LLC" on Justia Law
Windhurst v. Ariz. Dep’t of Corrections
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Corizon Healthcare Inc. in this medical malpractice action, holding that the requirements of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-2604 do not apply to claims against medical institutions not based on vicarious liability.David Windhurst, an inmate, was provided with health care through the Arizona Department of Corrections' contractor Corizon Healthcare Inc. David later died due the infections complications of diabetes mellitus. Plaintiff, David's widow, filed a wrongful death action against Corizon and other defendants, alleging, inter alia, institutional negligence by Corizon and vicarious liability based on the negligence of its medical personnel. The trial court granted summary judgment for Corizon on the medical negligence claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) when it is unclear which provider breached the standard of care, an expert on institutional standards of care may address an alleged breach by establishing that a class of providers failed to exercise appropriate care; (2) the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment for Corizon; and (3) a registered nurse may testify regarding gate cause of death in a medical malpractice case. View "Windhurst v. Ariz. Dep't of Corrections" on Justia Law
Thomas v. Logue
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the court of claims seeking to recover a portion of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC)'s subrogated award in this case, holding that the BWC's attempted expansion of subrogation was unlawful.The BWC allowed Lamar Thomas's workers' compensation claim for some conditions he received in an industrial accident caused by a third party but disallowed an additional claim for other conditions linked to the workplace accident based on a second opinion rendered during a medical review. When Thomas settled his personal injury case against a third-party tortfeasor, the BWC recouped through subrogation the cost of the medical review it had used to deny Thomas's additional claim. Thomas brought suit against the BWC. The court of claims denied the complaint via judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the medical review the BWC obtained was not an expense recoverable in subrogation. View "Thomas v. Logue" on Justia Law
Uriegas v. Kenmar Residential HCS Services, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court that two expert reports provided to support Plaintiff's claims for negligence provided the information required by the Texas Medical Liability Act, Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 74.351(a), (l), (r)(6), holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss.Plaintiff, the guardian of a care facility resident, sued Defendant, the facility, alleging negligence. The trial court concluded that the two expert reports provided by Plaintiff to support the claims provided a fair summary of the experts' opinion regarding the standard of care, breach, and the cause of injury, as required by the Act. The court of appeals reversed on the ground that the reports lacked sufficient detail regarding the appropriate standard of care and breach. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the proffered reports provided a fair summary of the experts' opinions as to the appropriate standard of care and breach of that standard. View "Uriegas v. Kenmar Residential HCS Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Escobar-Santana v. State
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying the State's motion to dismiss the second count of the complaint filed by Celine Escobar-Santana (Celine) and her son Emmett Escobar-Santana (Emmett), holding that the phrase "medical malpractice claims" in Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-160(f) was broad enough to encompass Celine's claim for emotional distress damages under the circumstances of this case.Celine brought this action alleging that she suffered emotional distress damages from physical injuries to Emmett that were proximately caused by the negligence of health care professionals (collectively, Defendants) during the birthing process. The State moved to dismiss count two of the complaint on the ground that the count did not fall within the statutory waiver of the State's sovereign immunity in section 4-160(f) because the count stated a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress or bystander liability rather than medical malpractice. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Celine's allegation that she suffered a traumatic delivery followed by severe psychological distress was inextricably connected to her allegations of medical malpractice and therefore qualified as a medical malpractice claim for purposes of section 4-160(f). View "Escobar-Santana v. State" on Justia Law
Wilson v. United States
Pretrial detainee Wilson complained to Philadelphia Federal Detention Center medical staff about a lump on his testicle in November 2017. They allegedly stated that such a lump was probably cancerous. Wilson subsequently complained that his condition worsened but received no further treatment. Wilson was transferred to Bureau of Prisons custody, where a urologist determined in February 2018 that the lump was cancerous. Wilson's right testicle was surgically removed. Wilson believed that if his cancer had been addressed earlier, treatment would not have involved chemotherapy and surgery.Wilson alleged medical negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The court granted extensions for Wilson (pro se) to act on Pennsylvania Rule 1042.3, which requires medical malpractice plaintiffs to certify either that they have expert support for their claims or will proceed without an expert. Wilson explained that he wanted an expert but conceded the impossibility of obtaining one during the pandemic prison lockdowns. He stated that his medical records would demonstrate that his injury “was not inevitable" and specifically identified documents as discoverable material to substantiate his allegations, The court granted the government summary judgment stating that, while a factfinder could find without expert testimony that the delay in treatment was unreasonable, the issue of whether the delay caused the need to remove Wilson’s testicle required expert testimony.The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the FTCA does not incorporate Rule 1042.3. Wilson did not otherwise have an adequate opportunity to seek out an expert or conduct discovery due to his unique position as a pro se inmate during the pandemic. View "Wilson v. United States" on Justia Law
Davis, et al. v. Mercy Medical Center, et al.
Mercy Medical Center d/b/a CHI St. Alexius Health Williston; and David Keene, M.D. (Defendants), appealed an amended judgment awarding Michael and Kimberly Davis $1,660,000 in damages and $204,973.31 in costs and disbursements for medical malpractice relating to Michael’s kidney failure. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the trial court awarded disbursements not authorized by N.D.C.C. § 28-26-06 and allowed other costs without explanation. The Court reversed the Davises’ award of disbursements and costs and remanded for further proceedings. View "Davis, et al. v. Mercy Medical Center, et al." on Justia Law
Johnson v. C. R. Bard, Inc.
Hoping to minimize her risk of suffering serious complications from future blood clots, Johnson underwent surgery to implant a retrievable intravascular filter–a medical device that is placed in the inferior vena cava to prevent blood clots that develop in the lower body from flowing into the heart and lungs. Johnson’s doctor selected the Meridian filter, which was supposed to be temporary and easily removable. Johnson’s filter migrated and fractured, leaving shards embedded in the wall of her heart and elsewhere. Her surgeon was unable to remove the device safely and fully. As a result, Johnson faces an ongoing risk of infection, pain, and other complications.Johnson sued the manufacturers of the Meridian filter (Bard), claiming that they defectively designed the Meridian filter and failed to warn medical providers about the device’s risks, in violation of Wisconsin law. A jury rejected most of Johnson’s theories but returned a $3.3 million verdict in her favor on her strict liability failure-to-warn count. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that its decision “should not be misinterpreted as our endorsement of some of Johnson’s counsel’s trial tactics.” There was no reversible error in instructing the jury or in permitting certain testimony, in alleged violation of expert witness disclosure requirements. View "Johnson v. C. R. Bard, Inc." on Justia Law
McLaughlin v. Nahata, et al.
During their employment with Dialysis Clinic, Inc. (DCI), the Doctors maintained staff privileges and worked at Washington Hospital. In 2013, Alyssa McLaughlin was admitted to the Hospital and received treatment from, among other medical staff, the Doctors, Kathryn Simons, M.D., Anne F. Josiah, M.D., Thomas Pirosko, D.O., and Ashely Berkley, D.O. At some point during or after that treatment, McLaughlin sustained severe and permanent neurological injuries. Attributing those injuries to negligence in her treatment, McLaughlin and her husband, William McLaughlin (collectively, the McLaughlins), initiated an action against the Doctors, the Hospital, and the other physicians noted above who were responsible for her care. The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review centered on whether, as a matter of law, the Hospital could seek contribution and/or indemnity from DCI for negligence committed by DCI’s employees (the Doctors). The trial and superior courts both concluded that, although traditional principles of contribution and indemnity did not apply cleanly these particular circumstances, equitable principles of law permitted the Hospital to seek both contribution and indemnity from DCI. As a result, the trial court denied DCI’s motion for summary relief, and the superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court was unanimous in finding that, if the Hospital and DCI were determined to be vicariously liable for the negligence of the Doctors, the law permitted the Hospital to seek contribution from DCI. The Court was evenly divided on the question of whether the Hospital could also seek indemnification from DCI. Given the decision on contribution and inability to reach a decision on indemnity, the superior court was affirmed on those questions. View "McLaughlin v. Nahata, et al." on Justia Law