Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
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In the medical negligence action, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the superior court denying Plaintiffs' motion for a new trial following a jury verdict in favor of Defendant, holding that the trial justice was clearly wrong in denying Plaintiffs' motion for a new trial.Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant deviated from the appropriate standard of care by failing properly to perform and document assessments of a newborn's intravenous line site. The jury returned a verdict for Defendant. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion for a new trial on the grounds that Defendant repeatedly engaged in unfair and prejudicial action before the jury. The trial justice denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial justice erred in finding that Defendant's closing argument did not result in prejudice to Plaintiffs. View "Baker v. Women & Infants Hospital of R.I." on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court granting Plaintiff's motion for a new trial after the jury found that Defendant breached the duty of care owed to the patient in this case, holding that the trial justice erred by replacing the jury's determination with her own.After Patricia Kinney died from complications related to her battle with ovarian cancer, Plaintiff brought this action, asserting that Defendant negligently performed a surgical procedure and post-surgical follow-up. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on the issue of negligence and for Defendant on the issue of proximate cause. The trial justice granted Plaintiff's motion for a new trial, finding that the verdict was against the fair preponderance of the evidence and failed to do substantial justice. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that reasonable minds could have come to different conclusions on the question of whether Plaintiff had met her burden of establishing that Defendant's breach was the cause of Kinney's death. View "Joplin v. Cassin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial after the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants in this medical malpractice action.Plaintiff’s claim against Defendants arose from an injury she alleged she suffered when she underwent an emergency cesarean section. The jury returned a verdict for Defendants. Plaintiff moved for a new trial. The trial justice denied the motion, concluding that reasonable minds could differ as to whether Plaintiff’s doctor’s conduct fell below the appropriate standard of care. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err in determining that reasonable minds could differ as to whether the doctor complied with the standard of care; and (2) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in his evidentiary rulings. View "Cappuccilli v. Carcieri" on Justia Law

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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