Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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In three consolidated cases, the Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the district judges denying in large part Defendants' motions to dismiss these medical malpractice lawsuits on time-bar grounds and reversed the judgment of one of the three judges granting the motion to dismiss as to a negligent credentialing claim, holding that Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged fraudulent concealment to avoid dismissal. Plaintiffs, three former patients of Dr. Sherman Sorensen, sued Sorensen, his business entity, and either St. Mark's Hospital or IHC Health Services, Inc., alleging that Sorensen performed unnecessary heart surgery on them. Defendants moved to dismiss each case on the ground that Plaintiffs' claims were time-barred under the Utah Health Care Malpractice Act. Defendants also contended that the time bar was not tolled by the statute's "fraudulent concealment" or "foreign object" exceptions. The three district judges denied the motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, holding(1) the statutory tolling provisions in Utah Code 78B-3-404(2) apply to both the two-year limitations period and the four-year repose period in section 78B-3-404(1); and (2) responses to affirmative defenses are not subject to the pleading requirements of rules 8 and 9 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. View "Bright v. Sorensen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants, a hospital and a midwife, holding that Plaintiff failed to produce expert evidence that created a genuine dispute of material fact as to the causation element of her medical malpractice claim. Thirteen years after her baby sustained brain damage during delivery, Plaintiff, as parent and natural guardian of her minor child, sued Defendants, alleging that the hospital's labor-and-delivery nurses and the midwife inadequately monitored Plaintiff's labor, which resulted in the child's hypoxic brain injury. The district court granted partial summary judgment for Defendants dismissing Plaintiff's claims for premajority medical expenses and then later dismissed Plaintiff's remaining negligence claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly found that Plaintiff failed to provide evidence that would establish the necessary causal link between the alleged breaches in standard of care and the supposed injury to the child. View "Ruiz v. Killebrew" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court ruling against Appellant in this declaratory judgment action and holding that the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) was entitled to recover from the portion of Appellant's settlement award representing all medical expenses, both past and future, holding that ORS may recover from only that portion of an award representing past medical expenses. Appellant brought malpractice and negligence claims against a hospital, alleging that the hospital's failure to diagnose his stroke caused severe injuries. At the time of his injuries, Appellant received Medicaid through the State, and Medicaid paid for Appellant's treatment. At issue here was what portion of Appellant's settlement award the ORS was permitted to collect. The district court held that ORS was entitled to recover from the portion of Appellant's settlement award representing all medical expenses, both past and future. The Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case, holding that ORS may place a lien on and recover from only that portion of Appellant's settlement representing past medical expenses. View "Latham v. Office of Recovery Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's grant of Defendants' motion to dismiss this medical malpractice action pursuant to Utah Code 78B-3-423(7) of the Utah Health Care Malpractice Act because Plaintiff failed to obtain a certificate of compliance from the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL), holding that the Malpractice Act violates Utah Const. art. VIII, I - the judicial power provision - by allowing DOPL to exercise the core judicial function of ordering the final disposition of claims like those brought by Plaintiff in this case without judicial review. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants without the certificate of compliance. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice citing Utah Code 78B-3-423(7) of the Malpractice Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the 2010 amendments to the Malpractice Act empower DOPL to hear and dispose of medical malpractice claims on a final non-appealable basis in violation of Article VIII; and (2) therefore, sections 78B-3-412(1)(b) and Utah Code 78B-3-423 are facially unconstitutional. View "Vega v. Jordan Valley Medical Center, LP" on Justia Law

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A request for prelitigation review, a step the Utah Healthcare Malpractice Act (UHMA) mandates a plaintiff take before filing a medical malpractice suit, tolls one of the limitation periods for filing that suit. Plaintiff filed a notice of intent to sue and a request for prelitigation review. After he received a certificate of compliance, Plaintiff filed suit against Intermountain Healthcare, Inc. and related entities (collectively, IHC), alleging that medical staff failed properly to resuscitate him after he suffered cardiac arrest and provided negligent post-surgical care. IHC filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that UHMA’s limitation period for medical malpractice actions barred Plaintiff’s suit. The district court disagreed, concluding that Plaintiff’s request for prelitigation proceedings tolled the time to file during the period he spent waiting for the prelitigation review to conclude. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the limitations period is tolled by filing a request for prelitigation review. View "Jensen v. Intermountain Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim on the grounds that the Utah Medical Malpractice Act’s two-year statute of limitations barred Plaintiff’s claim. Specifically, the Court held (1) a jury could permissibly find for Defendant based on the evidence before it; (2) the trial court’s decision not to grant summary judgment was not reviewable; (3) the trial court’s evidentiary decisions were not in error; (4) a directed verdict was not warranted where sufficient evidence was offered to sustain the jury verdict in favor of Defendant; and (5) the jury instructions in this case were not misleading. View "Arnold v. Grigsby" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals upholding the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Defendants - a physician and pharmacy - in this case filed by Plaintiff alleging that Defendants overprescribed medication. The district court determined that, because Plaintiff had failed to designate any expert on the applicable standards of care until the day on which the district court had scheduled the summary judgment hearing, the late-designated expert should be excluded, and without expert testimony Plaintiff would be unable to show that either the physician or the pharmacy had violated the applicable standard of care. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to preserve any of the issues she appealed. View "Baumann v. Kroger Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff underwent several medical procedures performed by Defendants, two medical doctors. Two years and three months after the treatment ended, Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim against Defendants. Upon a motion by Dr. Grigsby, one of the doctors, the district court dismissed Plaintiff's claim, finding that the claim was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed but on different grounds, holding (1) the court of appeals correctly found that, as a matter of law, Dr. Grigsby failed to show Plaintiff filed her claim more than two years after she discovered or should have discovered her legal injury; but (2) when a plaintiff alleges a course of negligent treatment, a defendant may show that the claim is barred by the two-year statute of limitations without identifying the specific procedure within the course of treatment that caused the patient's injury. Rather, to prevail, a defendant need only show that the plaintiff filed her claim more than two years after she discovered that the course of treatment was negligent. Remanded. View "Arnold v. Grigsby" on Justia Law

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This case involved a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by the Wilsons on behalf of their son, Jared. The Wilsons alleged that employees of IHC Hospitals breached their duty of care during Ms. Wilson's labor and delivery of Jared. The Wilsons further claimed that IHC's negligence caused Jared to suffer severe brain damage. The jury found that IHC did not act negligently. The Supreme Court vacated the jury's verdict, holding (1) IHC's trial tactics violated the court's in limine order excluding collateral source evidence at trial, misled the trial court, and substantially prejudiced the jury; (2) the collateral source rule precludes both explicit reference and methodical allusion to collateral source benefits; and (3) because IHC repeatedly disregarded the in limine order and violated the collateral source rule, the case must be remanded. View "Wilson v. IHC Hosps., Inc." on Justia Law

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Patient received medical treatment from Nurse at Medical Clinic. Nurse prescribed Patient at least six medications. With all of these drugs in his system, Patient shot and killed his wife. Patient subsequently pled guilty to aggravated murder. Patient's children (Plaintiffs) filed suit through their conservator against Nurse, her consulting physician, and Medical Clinic (collectively Defendants), alleging negligence in the prescription of the medications that caused Patient's violent outburst and his wife's death. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that Nurse owed no duty of care to Plaintiffs because no patient-health care provider relationship existed at the time of the underlying events between Plaintiffs and Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that healthcare providers owe nonpatients a duty to exercise reasonable care in the affirmative act of prescribing medications that pose a risk of injury to third parties. View "Jeffs v. West" on Justia Law