Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Dr. David Coppe (Defendant) in this medical malpractice action. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant breached the standard of care for treatment of a cellulitis ulcer, which required right foot bone amputation. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Defendant after precluding Plaintiffs from relying on expert witness testimony in the case. The Supreme Court held (1) any challenge to the ruling precluding Plaintiffs’ proposed expert witness was waived; (2) Plaintiffs were permitted to argue the facts of their case, and the grant of summary judgment was not in error; and (3) there was no evidence that the hearing justice was biased against Plaintiffs. View "Bartlett v. Coppe" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this medical malpractice lawsuit against Defendants, his optometrist and his optometrist’s employer, arguing that his optometrist breach the duty of care to him because he failed to diagnose a detached retina, which resulted in permanent vision loss. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants, concluding that although the optometrist violated the standard of care in treating Defendant, that violation was not the cause of Plaintiff’s vision loss. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial justice erred by restricting the testimony of Plaintiff’s causation expert, and Plaintiff was entitled to a new trial on all issues. View "Ribeiro v. Rhode Island Eye Inst." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff underwent open-heart surgery at Hospital in January 2004. Dr. Singh performed the surgery, and Dr. Schwartz was the echocardiologist assisting with the surgery. Plaintiff was required to undergo a second open-heart surgery in August 2004 because of an errant suture stitched by Dr. Singh during Plaintiff's January surgery. While in recovery from his second surgery, Plaintiff suffered a cardiac arrest. Plaintiff brought a medical malpractice action against Hospital, Dr. Singh, and Dr. Schwartz. Plaintiff subsequently settled his claims against Hospital and Dr. Singh. Plaintiff proceeded to trial on his claims against Dr. Schwartz, and the trial court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not commit reversible error in (1) refusing to instruct the jury on intervening and superseding cause; (2) admitting certain testimony pertaining to Plaintiff's cardiac arrest following surgery in August; (3) denying Defendant's request for a remittutur and motion to vacate the damage award; and (4) instructing the jury on insurance. Additionally, the Court held that R.I. Gen. Laws 9-21-10(b), which mandates prejudgment interest at a rate of twelve percent in certain cases, is constitutional. View "Oden v. Schwartz" on Justia Law

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On June 10, 2005, Plaintiff underwent surgery for a tumor in his neck. Analysis of the tumor on the same day revealed it was a form of cancer. Plaintiff alleged he learned he had cancer on June 21, 2005. Plaintiff and his wife filed a medical malpractice action against several doctors and health care facilities for failing to diagnose and treat Plaintiff's cancer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that the three-year statute of limitations began to run on June 2, 2005, when a separate medical doctor diagnosed the mass in Defendant's neck as a cervical tumor, and had expired before Plaintiffs filed suit on June 9, 2008. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that when Plaintiff was diagnosed as having a cervical tumor and that diagnosis was shared with Plaintiff, a "reasonable person in similar circumstances" would have discovered that the wrongful conduct of Defendants caused Plaintiff's injuries. View "Bustamante v. Oshiro" on Justia Law

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Pearl Archambault died while in the care of Haven Health Center of Greenville (Haven Health) after a nurse mistakenly administered a lethal overdose of morphine. The administratrix of her estate, Plaintiff, filed a medical malpractice action against Haven Health. Health Haven subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Thereafter, Plaintiff amended her complaint to add Columbia Casualty Company, the professional liability insurer of Health Haven, as a defendant and asserted two counts against Columbia directly based on R.I. Gen. Laws 27-7-2.4, which permits an injured party to proceed against an insurer when the insured has filed for bankruptcy. The superior court entered default judgment against Haven Health. The court then granted summary judgment in favor of Columbia. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter judgment against Columbia, holding that the superior court erred in interpreting Rhode Island law and that the insurance contract between Columbia and Health Haven should be construed in Plaintiff's favor. View "Peloquin v. Haven Health Ctr. of Greenville, LLC" on Justia Law

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Dr. James Gallo treated Plaintiff in 2003 and 2004. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Gallo and West Bay Psychiatry Associations, including claims for slander for remarks uttered in two separate proceedings. The first alleged slander occurred when Gallo's deposition was taken in connection with Plaintiff's case before the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC). The second alleged slander occurred when Gallo testified before the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) regarding Plaintiff's alleged wrongful termination from her teaching position. The superior court entered summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff's slander claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the motion justice did not err in finding (1) Plaintiff's claim for slander based on Gallo's WCC deposition testimony was time-barred; and (2) Plaintiff's claim for slander based on Gallo's RIDE testimony was immunized from defamation claims by the testimonial privilege because it qualified as having occurred in a judicial proceeding. View "Francis v. Gallo" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a wrongful death action. Plaintiffs alleged medical negligence. The civil suit and eventual trial took place in the wake of the death of Peter Almonte, who in 2000, killed himself approximately thirty-six hours after he was discharged from a hospital emergency room after an "severe psychological episode." Hospital personnel "decided" to honor Mr. Almonte's demand to be discharged, which plaintiffs alleged was a breach of the doctors' and hospital's duty arising from a patient/physician relationship. The jury returned a verdict of no negligence on the part of one of the defendants, Dr. Rita Kurl, M.D. Plaintiffs moved for a new trial, and defendants renewed their previously made motion for judgment as a matter of law. The trial court rejected the jury's findings as to the absence of negligence, but granted defendants motion because the court concluded that plaintiffs had failed to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. Accordingly, plaintiffs' motion was denied. On appeal, plaintiffs contended that the trial justice erred: (1) in granting defendants' Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law; (2) in refusing to give jury instructions with respect to the doctrine of spoliation; (3) in refusing plaintiffs' request for an evidentiary presumption on the issue of causation; and (4) in denying plaintiffs' Rule 59 motion for a new trial. Finding no basis upon which it could grant plaintiffs the relief they sought, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decisions. View "Almonte v. Kurl" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Martin Malinou filed a wrongful death and medical negligence action against Miriam Hospital and other medical professionals after his ninety-four year old mother died. Defendants filed motions for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff's claims were not supported by competent expert testimony and that plaintiff could not meet his burden of proof on the issues of breach of the standard of care and causation. The trial justice granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants. Plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) given plaintiff's repeated noncompliance with discovery orders, the trial justice did not abuse her discretion by precluding two doctors from testifying as expert witnesses; (2) because plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to support his underlying claims for medical negligence and wrongful death, plaintiff did not have a viable claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress or for loss of society and companionship; (3) adopting a loss-of-chance doctrine would not preclude the entry of summary judgment in favor of defendants; and (4) plaintiff did not raise a genuine issue of material fact in showing one of defendant doctors filed a false death certificate in violation of R.I. Gen. Laws 11-18-1. View "Malinou v. The Miriam Hospital" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Deborah Dawkins was treated by defendant David Siwicki during an emergency room visit after the plaintiff fell and injured her left wrist. The plaintiff subsequently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, alleging negligent diagnosis and treatment by the defendant. The plaintiff was initially treated by the defendant and subsequently underwent multiple surgeries over the span of several years, which the plaintiff alleged were necessary because of the defendant's alleged negligent treatment of her injury. The jury returned a verdict for the defendant. The plaintiff appealed, raising a number of arguments before the Supreme Court, many of which centered around the defense of the plaintiff's comparative negligence based on the defendant's contention that cigarette smoking impeded her treatment. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court, finding the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in the arguments raised by the plaintiff regarding pretrial ruling matters, alleged trial errors, and posttrial motions. View "Dawkins v. Siwicki" on Justia Law