Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia
by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing a suit for wrongful death against Virginia medical providers on the basis that Plaintiff had received a personal injury settlement against Kentucky medical providers concerning the same injury, holding that the circuit court erred in granting the motions to dismiss. Plaintiff, the husband of the decedent, filed wrongful death and personal injury actions in a Virginia circuit court and a Kentucky circuit court, asserting that the decedent died as a result of medical professions in both states failing to identify and treat the decedent's mesenteric ischemia. Plaintiff settled with the Kentucky defendants for an undisclosed amount, and the Kentucky circuit court dismissed all claims in the Kentucky action. The circuit court subsequently granted the Virginia defendants' motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in dismissing the case on the grounds that Plaintiff elected a remedy when he settled the Kentucky personal injury action and that Plaintiff's wrongful death action was barred by Va. Code 8.01-56; and (2) none of the doctrines of claim-splitting, double recovery, or judicial estoppel supported the circuit court's granting of the motions to dismiss. View "Green v. Diagnostic Imaging Associates" on Justia Law

by
In this wrongful death case, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court striking the evidence supporting a claim for punitive damages against Defendant, a physician who repeatedly prescribed narcotic pain medication to a patient, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the circuit court erred by granting Defendant's motion to strike. The patient in this case died from an accidental overdose of oxycodone, alcohol, and prescription medications. Plaintiff, the administrator of the decedent's estate, filed a wrongful death action against Defendant. In addition to damages permitted in wrongful death actions the administrator requested an award of punitive damages. Defendant conceded that he breached the applicable standard of care with respect to his care and treatment of the decedent but moved to strike the punitive damages claim. The circuit court granted the motion to strike. At issue was whether a jury could have concluded that Defendant's actions constituted a "willful and wanton" disregard for the decedent's health and safety. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the specific circumstances of this case, the administrator's punitive damages claim should have been submitted to the jury. View "Curtis v. Highfill" on Justia Law

by
In this medical malpractice appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' motion to strike the evidence on the ground that it was insufficient to prove causation, holding that Plaintiff's evidence was sufficient to establish a prima facie case and survive a motion to strike at the conclusion of Plaintiff's case-in-chief. Plaintiff, as the personal representative and the administrator of his deceased wife's estate, filed a complaint alleging that Defendants had been professionally negligent, which had caused his wife's wrongful death. At the conclusion of Plaintiff's case-in-chief, Defendants moved to strike the evidence. The circuit court granted the motion and entered a final order awarding judgment to Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's evidence was sufficient to defeat Defendants' motion to strike and that the circuit court erred by failing to view all of Plaintiff's evidence in the light most favorable to him. View "Tahboub v. Thiagarajah" on Justia Law

by
In this medical malpractice action the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment entered by the circuit court on a jury verdict returned in favor of Plaintiff, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Plaintiff brought a medical malpractice action against Defendant, alleging that he negligently performed a blepharoplasty procedure resulting in permanent injury to Plaintiff's right elevator muscle and leaving her functionally blind in her right eye. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff and awarded her compensatory damages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion in liming and in permitting Plaintiff to cross-examine the defense medical expert regarding matters that were the subject of a disciplinary proceeding against the medical expert; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's motions for mistrial and post-trial motions addressing its rulings on the consent issue and in refusing to provide instructions to the jury that consent was not at issue. View "Gross v. Stuart" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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