Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court

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Steven Wipf (Plaintiff) sued Dr. Terry Alstiel and Regional Health Physicians Inc. (Defendants) for medical malpractice, alleging that Dr. Altstiel accidentally perforated Wipf’s small bowel during a laparoscopic hernia repair and that Dr. Altstiel failed to inspect and find the perforations before completing the surgery. During discovery, Wipf sought access to operative and postoperative notices relating to follow-up care of some of Dr. Altstiel’s patients who had received laparoscopic hernia repairs. The circuit court found those records relevant and ordered Defendants to partially redact and produce the redacted records. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court did not adequately ensure that privileged information was not disclosed. Remanded for the circuit court to consider whether additional safeguards will ensure patient anonymity and, if so, the court must enter a protective order before disclosure. View "Wipf v. Altstiel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed lawsuits against Defendants - a medical doctor, his medical clinic, two hospitals, and other individual defendants (collectively, Defendants) - alleging various causes of action, including negligence, negligent credentialing, fraud, and deceit. Plaintiffs sought production of documents from Defendants, but Defendants declined to produce all of them, asserting that some of the materials sought were peer review materials protected under S.D. Codified Laws 36-4-26.1. Plaintiffs moved to compel production, asking the circuit court to determine that section 36-4-26.1 was unconstitutional. The circuit court ordered Defendants to produce, without in camera review, documents protected by peer review, determining that the statute was constitutional only if it applied a “crime-fraud exception” and that the exception had been met in this case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred (1) by creating a crime-fraud exception to section 36-4-26.1, and (2) by ordering Defendants to produce materials in the possession of medical peer review committees. View "Novotny v. Sossan" on Justia Law

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In November 2009, Plaintiff underwent a knee-replacement surgery at Sanford USD Medical Center. The day after the surgery, when he was still hospitalized, Plaintiff fell while walking with assistance from a patient-care technician. After being discharged, Plaintiff underwent inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient physical therapy. In September 2012, Plaintiff sought additional physical therapy for the alleged effects of the injury resulting from his fall. When Sanford declined to pay for additional treatment, Plaintiff commenced this action. Sanford moved for summary judgment, asserting that Plaintiff’s action was time-barred under S.D. Codified Laws 15-2-14.1 as a medical malpractice claim. The circuit court granted the motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that he commenced his action within the three-year statute of limitations applicable to general-negligence actions and that the circuit court erred in determining his action was time barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff’s action against Sanford was one for error or mistake, and therefore, section 15-2-14.1’s two-year period of repose applies; and (2) principles of estoppel and tolling are inapplicable to a period of repose, and the continuous-treatment rule did not toll section 15-2-14.1’s period of repose under the facts of this case. View "Pitt-Hart v. Sanford USD Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

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Fifteen-year-old Haley Gores was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Steven Smith when Smith lost control of the vehicle. Haley was treated by Dr. Lisa Miller for injuries she received during the accident. Dawn Gores, Haley’s mother and conservator, signed a general release in exchange for a settlement with Smith and Smith’s insurer. The release did not specifically name the treating physician or clinic, but it released al other claims that might develop from the accident. Haley and Dawn subsequently filed a malpractice suit against Dr. Miller and Yankton Surgical Associates (YSA), Dr. Miller’s practice group. Dr. Miller and YSA filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the release discharged Plaintiffs’ claims against them. The circuit court granted summary judgment, concluding that, based on the language of the release, the malpractice claims were discharged as a matter of contract. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly determined that the release barred Plaintiffs’ claims as a matter of contract. View "Gores v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was admitted to the intensive care unit at the Sanford USD Medical Center (Hospital) after being struck in the throat and head during an altercation. Plaintiff insisted on leaving the Hospital against medical advice. After Plaintiff left the Hospital, he brutally assaulted his neighbors. Plaintiff pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to the assault but was found not guilty by reason of mental illness. Plaintiff later brought this suit against the Hospital, alleging that the Hospital negligently failed to assess his mental condition after he insisted on leaving against medical advice, which made him a danger to himself and others. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Hospital on the grounds that S.D. Codified Laws 34-12C-7 applied, which provides good faith immunity to health care providers who follow a patient’s direction for his or her own health care, and that Plaintiff alleged no facts alleging bad faith. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly found that section 34-12C-7 applies and that there was no disputed issue of material fact that the Hospital acted in good faith. View "Klein v. Sanford USD Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

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In the first appeal of this medical malpractice suit, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded a judgment for defendant Dr. Linda Peterson, holding that the trial court abused its discretion when it misconstrued the rules of evidence on the relevancy and admissibility of plaintiff Lita St. John's proffered evidence. On remand, defendant asked for reconsideration of the evidentiary rulings and reinstatement of the judgment. Concluding that the Supreme Court's opinion still left open the question whether the evidence was admissible, and ruling that it was not, the trial court declined to grant plaintiff a new trial and reinstated the judgment for defendant. Upon re-review, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. "Many issues addressed by motions in limine, including evidentiary issues, are frequently reexamined during trial and the trial court may change rulings based on the actual evidence at trial. Thus, it was an error for the trial court in this case to reinstate a judgment based on reconsidering and ruling on a motion in limine outside of the context of a trial. We reverse the trial court's decision and remand for a new trial." View "St. John v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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After undergoing surgery for a heart valve replacement, Kathy Young died. Kathy's husband, Greg Oury, brought this medical malpractice suit on behalf of Kathy's estate, alleging that the doctor who performed the surgery (Doctor) (1) was negligent in recommending the specific procedure that he used in the surgery, the Ross procedure; and (2) failed to obtain Kathy's informed consent because he did not tell her that the Ross procedure was controversial and that Kathy was not a good candidate for the procedure. During the trial, Doctor displayed a chart indicating patient survival rates of various valve replacement surgeries. The court later deemed inadmissible the chart and Doctor's related testimony because the chart had not been disclosed before trial and because the admission lacked foundational support. The jury returned a verdict for Doctor. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the circuit court's erroneous admission of Doctor's chart and testimony allowed the jury to hear unsupported and surprise evidence directly related to the issue of informed consent, and there being no clear and timely curative instruction, the evidence in all probability prejudicially influenced the jury in its decision. View "Young v. Oury" on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff's surgeon, Dr. Krouse, performed wrist surgery on Plaintiff's left wrist, Plaintiff visited another orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Curd, complaining of continuing pain. Dr. Curd concluded that another surgery was necessary to remove the metal plate and screws implanted by Dr. Krouse. After the surgery was performed, Plaintiff brought suit for medical malpractice against Dr. Krouse and the hospital in which she was treated during her first surgery. A jury returned a verdict for Dr. Krouse. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in (1) excluding another doctor's previously undisclosed opinion that Dr. Krouse breached the standard of care; and (2) rejecting Plaintiff's proposed jury instruction on res ipsa loquitor. View "Thompson v. Avera Queen of Peace Hosp." on Justia Law

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A doctor and his wife filed suit against a hospital and several of its treating physicians (collectively, Defendants) alleging medical malpractice. The jury entered a verdict for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in excluding alleged statements made by employees of Defendant under S.D. Codified Laws 19-12-14 as this issue was waived, and even if it was not waived, there was no offer of proof that provided factual context to demonstrate that the statements should not have been excluded under the statute; and (2) the circuit court did not err in precluding the impeachment of a defense expert witness after finding it was not relevant. View "Ronan v. Sanford Health" on Justia Law

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Lita St. John sued Dr. Linda Peterson, alleging medical malpractice in repairing a vesicovaginal fistula. The jury entered a verdict for Peterson. St. John appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of other cases where Peterson failed to repair vesicovaginal fistulas. The Supreme Court held that the trial court misstated and apparently misapplied the balancing test of S.C. R. Evid. 403, which states that relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Because it was possible that the exclusion of the evidence in all probability affected the outcome of the jury's verdict and thereby constituted prejudicial error, the Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded. View "St. John v. Peterson" on Justia Law