Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
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Johnson suffers from severe, permanent nerve damage, which he alleges was caused by a negligently performed hip replacement surgery. He sued his surgeon, Dr. Armstrong, citing specific negligence and the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. He also brought a res ipsa loquitur claim against a surgical technician who participated in the surgery. Johnson provided one expert witness, also a surgeon, to establish the elements of res ipsa loquitur. The court granted the technician summary judgment, stating that Johnson failed to present an expert witness to establish the standard of care for a technician, that the control element of res ipsa loquitur was not met, and that there was no evidence of negligence on the technician’s part. The court subsequently granted Armstrong summary judgment on the res ipsa loquitur count, leaving the count of specific negligence remaining. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court dismissed and vacated in part. The effect of the summary judgment in favor of Armstrong is to preclude Johnson from proving that Armstrong was negligent under the unique proofs of res ipsa loquitur, but the claim for negligence remains outstanding. The summary judgment order with respect to Armstrong was not a final judgment; the appellate court lacked jurisdiction. With respect to the other defendants, the elements of res ipsa loquitur were met at the time of the decision; no further expert testimony on the standard of care was required. Given that the Armstrong summary judgment was pronounced after the technician was orally dismissed from the res ipsa loquitur count, the circuit court was directed to reconsider that order in light of this opinion. View "Johnson v. Armstrong" on Justia Law

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On November 21, 2017, Richard Bush presented to Saint Bernard Parish Hospital for depression and suicidal ideations. At the hospital, Dr. Miguel Aguilera treated and discharged him. Bush attempted re-admittance with the same complaints, but was refused re-admittance. Thereafter, Bush attempted suicide in the hospital bathroom. He was found alive and transported to University Hospital in New Orleans for treatment; however, he succumbed to his injuries from the suicide attempt and died on November 30, 2017. In November 2018, his wife, Patricia Bush, on behalf of herself, her daughters, Madalyn and Ashley Bush, and on behalf of the decedent, Richard Bush, filed a formal pro se complaint with the Patient Compensation Fund (“PCF”) to convene a medical review panel (“MRP”), naming Saint Bernard Parish Hospital and Dr. Aguilera for malpractice relating to Richard Bush's death. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application in order to determine: (1) whether contra non valentem interrupted prescription; and (2) whether the court of appeal erred in relying on documents that were not entered as evidence and were not part of the record. The Court found that, while contra non valentem may interrupt prescription in a wrongful death claim in certain instances, it did not interrupt prescription in this case due to the fact that the court of appeal incorrectly considered documents that were not in evidence. The Court reversed the court of appeal’s ruling in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Medical Review Panel for the Claim of Richard Bush" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice case the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court denying Defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that a timely-served expert report demonstrated a good faith effort to comply with the requirements of the Texas Medical Liability Act.Plaintiffs brought this case alleging that negligent perinatal care during labor and delivery caused their infant's brain damage and other serious health conditions. On the infant's behalf, Plaintiffs sued their treating physician and other healthcare providers and served expert reports on Defendants, including a report by Dr. James Balducci, an obstetrician. Plaintiff's treating physician filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court denied. The court of appeals reversed and dismissed the claims against the treating physician with prejudice on the grounds that Dr. Balducci's report was insufficient to support Plaintiffs' healthcare liability claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the expert report satisfied the "fair summary" standard in Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 74.351(l), (r)(6). View "E.D. v Texas Health Care, PLLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the district court in favor of Plaintiff in this medical negligence action, holding that the district court erred in how it structured periodic payments after applying the periodic-payments statute in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 74, Subchapter K to Plaintiff's award of future medical expenses.Plaintiff, the mother of A.M.A., brought this action on his behalf alleging that, upon A.M.A.'s delivery, the nurses' delay in summoning the obstetrician when A.M.A.'s heartrate dropped to nondetectable levels for extended periods caused his cerebral palsy. The jury found for A.M.A.and awarded $1.208 million for future healthcare expenses after he turns eighteen. The trial judge applied the periodic payment statute to the award. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that the district court erred in the way that it structured the periodic payments. View "Columbia Valley Healthcare System, L.P. v. A.M.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Christopher Gillis and dismissing the claim brought by Lori and Robert Bogue that, as a result of negligence during a surgical procedure, Lori suffered injuries, holding that there was no error.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Gillis on statute of limitations grounds, thus rejecting the Bogues' argument that under the continuous treatment doctrine the statute of limitations did not begin to run until the conclusion of Gillis' treatment of Lori approximately one year after the date of the surgery. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the statute of limitations began to run on the date of the surgery. View "Bogue v. Gills" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the circuit court's order granting Respondent's motion to dismiss this Petitioners' claims asserting, inter alia, medical negligence, res ipsa loquitur, and loss of consortium, but vacated the court's decision to grant the dismissal with prejudice, holding that the court erred in dismissing the action with prejudice.At issue on appeal was whether Petitioners' failure to serve a screening certificate of merit upon Respondent before filing their complaint warranted a dismissal of Petitioners' complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to proceed in this case due to Petitioners' failure to comply with the pre-suit notice requirements of the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act, W. Va. Code 55-7B-6; and (2) therefore, the circuit court properly dismissed the civil action, but erred in dismissing it with prejudice. View "Tanner v. Raybuck" on Justia Law

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Dr. Dubnow, a board-certified physician with more than 40 years of experience, was Chief of the Emergency Department at Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC). In 2017, he diverted an ambulance transporting an infant to Lake Forest Hospital, located a few minutes away from the FHCC. Lake Forest has a Level-II trauma center and is staffed with pediatric specialists. The child was pronounced dead upon arriving at Lake Forest. The FHCC, a VA hospital, investigated Dubnow’s diversion decision. This investigation eventually resulted in his removal. A review board concluded that none of the grounds for his removal were supported but the final reviewing authority reversed the review board’s decision. The district court affirmed the VA’s removal decision.The Seventh Circuit vacated the removal. The VA failed to properly apply the deferential “clearly contrary to the evidence” standard when reviewing the board’s decision to overturn Dubnow’s removal; the decision was arbitrary. The relevant question was whether the diversion was appropriate; if so, Dubnow’s removal could not be sustained. To conclude that treating the patient at the FHCC was possible, or even appropriate, is not to conclude that diverting the ambulance to a better-equipped hospital was inappropriate. A “conclusion that there was ‘no need’ to divert the patient is two steps removed from the analysis” under 38 U.S.C. 7462(d). View "Dubnow v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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Pappas sued Dr. Chang for malpractice. During mediation, they agreed that Chang would pay Pappas $100,000. Both parties and their counsel signed a settlement agreement, which provided that Pappas “will execute a release of all claims ... in a more comprehensive settlement agreement ... to include a provision for mutual confidentiality as to the facts ... the terms and amount of this agreement.” The parties unsuccessfully negotiated the “more comprehensive settlement agreement” and “provision for mutual confidentiality” for months. Pappas discharged her attorney and, representing herself, advised Chang’s attorney that she would only comply with a confidentiality provision if she received $525,000, then sued Chang for breach of contract.The trial court ruled against Pappas “because she has not signed a ‘more comprehensive settlement agreement’ and release which includes a provision for mutual confidentiality.” In consolidated appeals, the court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that a confidentiality provision would be against public policy and violate the Business and Professions Code. The court also rejected Chang’s appeal of the trial court’s denial of her attorney fees as costs of proof at trial (Code Civ. Proc., 2033.420) based on its finding that Pappas’s denial of two requests for admission was based on a good faith belief she would prevail at trial and that the requests went to the ultimate issue. View "Pappas v. Chang" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court denying Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's medical negligence claims, holding that Texas Medical Liability Act applied, and therefore, Plaintiff's failure to serve an expert report on Defendants was fatal to her claims.At issue was (1) whether Plaintiff's claims that Defendants negligently administered various treatments that caused scarring and discoloration to her skin constituted "health care liability claims" under the Act, and (2) whether the Act prohibited Plaintiff from filing an amended petition after the Act's deadline for serving expert reports. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff's claims constituted health care liability claims subject to the Act's expert report requirements; (2) the Act did not prohibit Plaintiff from filing an amended petition; and (3) because Plaintiff failed timely to serve an expert report, Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed under the Act. View "Lake Jackson Medical Spa, Ltd. v. Gaytan" on Justia Law

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Albright was severely injured in a car accident and used opioids to manage her chronic pain. She became addicted to opioids. Seeking treatment for her addiction, Albright turned to Dr. Christensen to administer a one-week in-patient detoxification program. Christensen started Albright with a patient-controlled analgesia pump to supply her with hydromorphone, a pain reliever; he also gave Albright phenobarbital, which depresses the central nervous system. Christensen terminated these treatments after Albright became “anxious and tearful” while the two discussed the treatment. Changing tack, Christensen twice administered Suboxone—an opioid-replacement medication—to Albright. On both occasions, Albright immediately developed muscle spasms, pain, contortions, restlessness, and feelings of temporary paralysis. She refused further treatment and was discharged. Albright still suffers shaking, muscle spasms, and emotional distress.The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of Albright’s suit against Christensen. The suit sounds in medical malpractice rather than negligence. Michigan’s affidavit-of-merit and pre-suit-notice rules for medical-malpractice actions conflict with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and do not apply in diversity cases in federal court. Federal Rule 3 requires only the filing of a complaint to commence an action—nothing more. The district court mistakenly invoked Erie and applied the pre-suit-notice rule in Albright’s case. View "Albright v. Christensen" on Justia Law