Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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Plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice action against a hospital, several doctors, and others. Two of the doctors were employed by a corporate entity and treated patients exclusively at the hospital in accordance with a contractual relationship between the hospital and the entity. The third doctor provided surgical services at the hospital in accordance with a contract he executed with a corporation that contracted with hospital to provide a "surgicalist" program, an arrangement that provided the hospital with surgeons. Plaintiffs sought to hold the hospital vicariously liable for the alleged negligence of the doctors on the theory that the doctors were employees or actual agents of the hospital, or that the doctors and corporate defendants were engaged in a joint venture with the hospital. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the hospital, holding (1) the doctors were not actual agents or employees of the hospital at the time of the alleged negligence, and (2) there was no joint venture. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in its judgment. View "Cunningham v. Herbert J. Thomas Mem'l Hosp." on Justia Law

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Infant was born with severe brain damage. Respondent, Infant's mother, on behalf of Infant, applied for and received Medicaid benefits from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Respondent later filed a medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of Infant. Subsequently, Respondent petitioned the circuit court for approval of the settlement, requesting that Medicaid not be reimbursed. DHHR intervened. The court granted the motion of Respondent for allocation of the $3,600,000 settlement, holding that, pursuant to Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services v. Ahlborn, a proportional reduction of DHHR's recovery was required based on the ratio of the settlement to the "full value" of the case among the various damages categories. Using this allocation method, the court reduced DHHR's statutory reimbursement from the requested amount of $289,075 to $79,040 and directed that the net settlement proceeds be placed in a special needs trust for the benefit of Infant. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages was applicable in this case; and (2) under the formula applied in Ahlborn, the DHHR was entitled to approximately $98,080, less its pro rata share of attorney's fees and costs. Remanded. View "In re E.B." on Justia Law

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Petitioner, the executrix of the estate of Henry Cline, filed a complaint against Respondent, Dr. Kiren Kresa-Reahl, alleging that Respondent negligently failed to advise the decedent of the availability of certain medications to treat his stroke. Prior to filing her complaint, Petitioner refused to provide a pre-suit screening certificate of merit pursuant to the pre-suit requirements of the Medical Professional Liability Act. Petitioner asserted that her claim fell within the exception to such requirements as an "informed consent" claim. The circuit court disagreed, ruling that Petitioner's complaint did not state a recognized informed consent claim and that, therefore, her failure to provide a screening certificate of merit warranted dismissal without prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in applying the plain language of the statute and caselaw in dismissing the case without prejudice. View "Cline v. Kresa-Reahl " on Justia Law

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In a medical professional liability action, the jury returned a verdict in favor of appellants James and Debbie MacDonald, which included an award of $1,500,000 for noneconomic loss. In accordance with W. Va. Code 55-7B-8, the circuit court reduced the noneconomic damages award to $500,000, finding that James suffered a permanent and substantial physical deformity warranting application of the higher cap amount. On appeal, the MacDonalds argued that the cap contained in the statute was unconstitutional, and therefore, the circuit court erred in reducing the jury's verdict. Appellees, Sayeed Ahmed, M.D. and City Hospital, asserted a cross-assignment of error, arguing that the $250,000 cap should have been applied in this case. City Hosptial also cross assigned as error the circuit court's denial of its motion for summary judgment, motion for judgment as a matter of law, and motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statute as amended in 2003 was constitutional, (2) the circuit court did not err in applying the higher cap, and (3) the circuit court did not err in denying the motions filed by City Hospital. View "MacDonald v. City Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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The West Virginia Medical Imaging & Radiation Therapy Technology Board of Examiners appealed an order of the circuit court. In the order, the court reversed the Board's decision to suspend Appellee Kenneth Harrison's medical license. The Board issued a final administrative decision that found Dr. Harrison practiced outside the scope of his medical imaging and radiation therapy license when he administered intravenous allergy medicine to a patient without the treating physician's involvement. Upon careful consideration of the arguments and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision.