Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

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In this medical malpractice action, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding certain statements proffered by Plaintiff. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in excluding statements that she argued should have been admitted as lay opinion under Va. R. Evid. 2:701 and that the trial court erred in excluding a statement the decedent made after the surgery, contending that the statement should have been admitted under the Deadman’s Statute, Va. Code 8.01-397. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the lay opinion testimony concerning what was disclosed to the patient in this case and what the patient may have one was speculative and inadmissible; and (2) the trial court properly excluded a statement the patient made after the surgery as irrelevant. View "Martin v. Lahti" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action in which a jury rendered a verdict in favor of Plaintiff, the circuit court erred in denying Defendant’s motion to strike Plaintiff’s evidence on the ground that Plaintiff failed to prove causation. Plaintiff sued Defendant-doctor, alleging that Defendant negligently perforated her small bowel during a laparoscopic total hysterectomy, failed to detect the perforation, and failed to obtain a general surgery consultation to repair the injury. At the end of Plaintiff’s case-in-chief, the circuit court denied Defendant’s motion to strike the evidence. The jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff’s favor. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff did not prove causation and was unable to do so from the evidence presented to the trial court, and therefore, the circuit court should have granted Defendant’s motion to strike the evidence on the basis of lack of causation. View "Dixon v. Sublett" on Justia Law

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The circuit court abused its discretion in this medical malpractice action when it refused to qualify Plaintiff’s only proposed expert witness (Dr. Aboderin) and granted summary judgment for Defendant. After voir dire, Defendant moved to exclude Dr. Aboderin’s testimony on the ground that she failed to meet the two-prong test of Va. Code 8.01-581.20, which governs qualification of medical malpractice expert witnesses. The trial court sustained Defendant’s objection, thus excluding Dr. Aboderin from testifying. Because Dr. Aboderin was Plaintiff’s only proposed expert witness, Plaintiff was unable to establish that Defendant breached the standard of care or that any breach was the proximate cause of her daughter’s injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in refusing to qualify Dr. Aboderin as an expert witness because there was evidence that she satisfied both the knowledge and active clinical practice requirements of section 8.01-581.20. View "Holt v. Chalmeta" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant’s motion to set aside the jury verdict in favor of Plaintiff. On appeal, Defendant argued that Plaintiff did not plead a claim for battery in her complaint and that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on battery and informed consent and in denying his motion to strike that claim. The Supreme Court agreed with Defendant, holding (1) the initial complaint did not allege a claim for battery, and the trial court erred in instructing the jury on battery; (2) Plaintiff failed to establish proximate causation in connection with a theory of informed consent; and (3) the appropriate remedy for the errors was a remand for a new trial on Plaintiff’s original theory of negligence. View "Allison v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff’s medical malpractice action against Dr. J. Michael Syptak and Harrisonburg Family Practice. Plaintiff pleaded theories of intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence, alleging that Dr. Syptak’s unsolicited and offensive sexual jokes and sexual innuendo caused her preexisting conditions to worsen. The trial court granted summary judgment to Dr. Syptak on the basis that Plaintiff was required to designate a qualifying expert to testify on the standard of care and causation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s failure to designate an expert to testify concerning proximate causation of her injuries was fatal to her case. View "Summers v. Syptak" on Justia Law

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Mariam Toraish, as the administrator of her deceased five-year-old son Adam’s estate, instituted a medical malpractice action against James J. Lee, M.D. and his practice. Lee had performed a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery upon Adam, who died that same day from cardiac arrhythmia. Toraish’s complaint alleged that Adam was at a high risk for postoperative respiratory compromise and that Dr. Lee violated the applicable standard of care by failing to order that he be monitored overnight following surgery. During trial, the trial court allowed the expert testimony of Simeon Boyd, M.D., a board-certified pediatric geneticist, who opined that Adam highly likely died of “cardiac arrest due to Brugada syndrome.” The jury returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Lee and his practice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Dr. Boyd’s testimony should not have been admitted because it was based upon an assumption that had no basis in fact. Remanded for a new trial. View "Toraish v. Lee" on Justia Law

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Pike underwent complex surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center to reconstruct the back of his mouth and was taken, for recovery, to the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit. Unit patients are often in very critical condition and each nurse is responsible for two patients at most. Following a surgery such as Pike’s, it is important to keep the patient’s head stable to enable blood to flow. Pike's doctors did not write any orders specifically governing the position of his head or neck. A surgeon at the hospital testified that he would rely on the skill and expertise of the nurse to position the patient’s head. Five days after the surgery, Pike was found in a position that would cause “venous compromise.” The staff was instructed to avoid this practice. That afternoon, Pike’s physician found Pike again in that position, his face and neck massively swollen. Pike had to undergo further surgery, which was not successful. Pike's malpractice complaint was dismissed on the basis of sovereign immunity. Pike argued that Hagaman, a registered nurse, was not entitled to sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed, noting that Hagaman’s discretion was cabined by physicians’ orders, that she could not refuse to accept a particular patient, that the hospital “had a high degree of control over Hagaman," who was supervised by senior staff, and that she was subject to hospital policies. The hospital pays her wages and determines her schedule. View "Pike v. Hagaman" on Justia Law

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The parents of Kenia Lopez-Rosario, an adult with several physical and cognitive disabilities, petitioned the circuit court appoint them as Lopez-Rosario’s co-guardians. The circuit court granted guardianship to the parents. Subsequently, Lopez-Rosario had surgery to remove her gallbladder, and the surgeon, Dr. Christine Habib, allegedly made an error that injured Lopez-Rosario. Lopez-Rosario filed a negligence suit against Dr. Habib and her employer. Defendants filed a plea in bar/motion to dismiss, arguing that Lopez-Rosario could not file suit in her own name because her parents had been appointed as her guardians. The circuit court granted the plea in bar/motion to dismiss, concluding that Lopez-Rosario did not have standing to sue in her own name. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, pursuant to Va. Code 64.2-2025, Lopez-Rosario’s parents had the authority and obligation to prosecute lawsuits on Lopez-Rosario’s behalf, and therefore, Lopez-Rosario lacked standing to file suit in her own name. View "Lopez-Rosario v. Habib" on Justia Law