Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries
Titus v. Alaska, Department of Corrections, et al.
The personal representative of an estate brought a medical malpractice claim against a company that provided the decedent emergency room medical care shortly before his death. The superior court granted summary judgment dismissing the estate’s claim against the company, reasoning that the estate’s board-certified expert was not qualified to testify about the relevant standard of care. The Alaska Supreme Court reversed, finding the physician, licensed under AS 09.20.185(a)(1), met the requirement of AS 09.20.185(a)(3) because a variety of fields of medicine, directly related to the matter at issue. View "Titus v. Alaska, Department of Corrections, et al." on Justia Law
Miller v. Patel
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate panel affirming the decision of the trial court to deny Appellant's request to amend her complaint alleging negligence against numerous healthcare providers to allege a violation of 42 U.S.C. 1395dd, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), holding that EMTALA's statute of limitations did not preempt an amendment.Appellant's grandson killed her husband after receiving treatment for his mental illness and dangerous propensities. Appellant sued her grandson's healthcare providers, alleging that their negligent care and treatment of her grandson led to her husband's death. Appellant subsequent moved to amend her complaint under Indiana Trial Rule 15(C) to allege a violation of EMTALA, which has a two-year statute of limitations. The trial court denied the request, and an appellate penal affirmed, concluding that the statute of limitations preempted an amendment under Rule 15(C). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that EMTALA's statute of limitations did not preempt an amendment under Trial Rule 15(C). View "Miller v. Patel" on Justia Law
Brown v. Long Romero
The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether the “McHaffie Rule” applied even where the plaintiff chooses not to assert vicarious liability for an employee’s negligence and, instead, asserts only direct negligence claims against the employer. Here, Erica Murphy Brown and Steven Brown (collectively, “Brown”) sued Denver Center for Birth and Wellness (“DCBW”) for negligence and negligent hiring. Brown also sued Shari Long Romero, a DCBW employee and certified nurse-midwife, for wrongful death. The suit arose from the death of Brown’s child during labor at DCBW. After acknowledging vicarious liability for Long Romero’s negligence - by admitting, in its Answer, that Long Romero’s alleged acts and omissions occurred within the course and scope of her employment - DCBW moved for partial judgment on the pleadings under C.R.C.P. 12(c) on Brown’s negligent hiring claim. The trial court, citing the McHaffie Rule, granted DCBW’s motion and dismissed Brown’s negligent hiring claim—even though Brown had chosen not to assert vicarious liability for Long Romero’s negligence. The Supreme Court held that a plaintiff’s direct negligence claims against an employer are not barred where the plaintiff does not assert vicarious liability for an employee’s negligence. Thus, the trial court erred in granting DCBW’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings and dismissing Brown’s negligent hiring claim. The Court vacated the trial court's grant of partial judgment on the pleadings, and remanded with directions to reinstate Brown's negligent hiring claim. View "Brown v. Long Romero" on Justia Law
Bednarski v. Johnson
Dr. Zenon Bednarski and his practice, Auburn Urgent Care, Inc. ("AUC"), appealed a circuit court judgment awarding Cortney Johnson ("Cortney"), as the administrator of the estate of Hope Johnson ("Hope"), deceased, $6.5 million. In October 2014, Hope and her mother visited Dr. Kerri Hensarling for evaluation and the prescription of a birth-control method. Hope's mother informed Dr. Hensarling that she had personally experienced multiple blood clots, and Dr. Hensarling ordered tests to determine if Hope was also at risk of experiencing blood clots. The test results revealed the presence of factor V Leiden, which contributes to the possibility of blood clotting. However, Dr. Hensarling failed to accurately determine the results of the test, and Hope and her mother were informed that the test results were negative for blood-clotting factors. Dr. Hensarling prescribed hormonal birth-control pills for Hope, the taking of which in combination with the presence of factor V Leiden would increase her risk of experiencing blood clots. Hope began taking the birth-control pills as prescribed, without knowledge of her increased risk for blood clots. In December 2014, Hope visited the AUC clinic, complaining of shortness of breath, chest pains, coughing, a headache, and a sore throat. Dr. Bednarski diagnosed Hope with bronchitis and prescribed an antibiotic medication. Hope returned to the AUC clinic a few days later, complaining of a much worsened condition, with sharp chest pains and extreme shortness of breath. A blood test was conducted, and Hope was diagnosed with leukocytosis and dyspnea and was prescribed an inhaler. The next morning, Hope died of a pulmonary blood clot. In May 2016, Hope's father, Cortney, as the administrator of her estate, filed suit, naming as defendants Dr. Hensarling and her practice, and Dr. Bendarski and AUC. Cortney settled with Dr. Hensarling; the Bednarski defendants unsuccessfully moved for a judgment as a matter of law at the close of Cortney's case-in-chief. The jury returned a general verdict in favor of Cortney against the Bednarski defendants. Finding that the Bednarski defendants failed to demonstrate they were entitled to a judgment as a matter of law, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Bednarski v. Johnson" on Justia Law
Harkins v. Honorable House
The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the court of appeals denying Plaintiffs' petitions seeking writs of prohibition in these medical malpractice actions, holding that Plaintiffs established that they were entitled to the writs.Plaintiffs brought this action against Defendants, medical providers and their employers asserting medical malpractice. Plaintiffs moved to disqualify Defendants' counsel, asserting the existence of an actual conflict of interest. The trial court found the existence of actual conflicts of interest and granted the motions. The court of appeals subsequently denied Defendants' separate petitions seeking writs of prohibition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs satisfied the burdens of showing entitlement to seek issuance of a writ. View "Harkins v. Honorable House" on Justia Law
Hawkins v. United States
Hawkins, a Navy veteran, suffered a mental breakdown at work. She was escorted from her workplace in handcuffs and hospitalized for observation. She sought follow-up psychiatric care at a VA hospital. According to Hawkins, the VA doctors who treated her negligently failed to prescribe medication to address severe insomnia and anxiety, despite her complaints that the antidepressant she had been prescribed was not helping. Hawkins suffered another psychotic break during which she attacked and seriously wounded her mother. Hawkins spent a year in jail, lost her job as an RN, and has been unable to return to work.Hawkins sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging medical malpractice. Hawkins claimed that her mental breakdown, which prompted her to seek medical care, was caused by years of workplace bullying and harassment by her supervisor. The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, 5 U.S.C. 8101(1), bars a suit against the government for damages under any other law, including the FTCA. Before filing this action, Hawkins pursued a claim under FECA; the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs determined that the alleged workplace bullying and harassment did not occur. If the OWCP had determined that the injury for which Hawkins sought medical care was sustained during the course of her employment, her FTCA action would have been barred. View "Hawkins v. United States" on Justia Law
Chesnut v. United States
On April 4, Debra went to Kentucky’s Manchester Memorial Hospital emergency room where she presented with numbness from the waist down, pain in both legs, with the right leg being worse and cold. On April 19, Debra’s right leg was amputated below the knee at the University of Kentucky Medical Center due to serious clots that restricted blood flow. Debra sued healthcare providers for failing to consider that Debra’s symptoms were caused by vascular issues rather than musculoskeletal abnormalities. The only remaining defendant is the government which was substituted under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346, 2671–80, for its employee, Dr. Madden, who examined Debra at the federally-supported health center on April 12.The district court entered judgment in favor of the United States. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The proper framing of the causation inquiry was not whether it would have made a difference as to the ultimate outcome if Dr. Madden had properly diagnosed the condition on April 12 but whether it would have made a difference to Debra’s outcome if Madden had considered the possibility of vascular causes as the source of her symptoms on April 12. The district court declined to resolve a dispute as to whether Debra suffered from ischemia from April 4 to April 13, or whether she suffered sudden ischemia on April 13, after she being seen by Madden. View "Chesnut v. United States" on Justia Law
Johnson v. Abdullah
The Supreme Court held that a physician employed in an executive position who does not directly oversee physicians who treat patients does not satisfy the active-clinical-practice requirement of Ohio R. Evid. 601.Plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice suit alleging that Defendant was negligent of his treatment of one of the plaintiffs. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Defendant. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the plain language of Rule 601 should have precluded the testimony of Dr. Ron Walls as an expert regarding the standard of care when Walls was not involved in the active clinical practice of medicine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a physician who is employed in an executive position and does not directly oversee physicians who treat patients does not satisfy the requirements of Rule 601; and (2) Walls did not satisfy the active-clinical-practice requirement of Rule 601. View "Johnson v. Abdullah" on Justia Law
Bittner v. Centurion of Vermont, LLC et al.
In an interlocutory appeal, defendants challenged the trial court’s denial of their motion to dismiss plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim. They contended dismissal was required because plaintiff did not file a certificate of merit (COM) with her complaint as required by 12 V.S.A. 1042(a) and the trial court did not find, nor did the complaint show, that this was a “rare instance” where expert testimony was unnecessary under section 1042(e). The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with defendants and therefore reversed the trial court’s decision. View "Bittner v. Centurion of Vermont, LLC et al." on Justia Law
Santos-Arrieta v. Hospital Del Maestro, Inc.
The First Circuit vacated the entry of an amended judgment entered in this medical malpractice case, holding that the district court erred in granting judgment as a matter of law.Plaintiffs, a couple and their minor child, sued Defendants, a hospital and a medical doctor, seeking damages for the brain damage that the child suffered at his birth. The jury entered a verdict of just under $5 million in favor of Plaintiffs. The hospital subsequently filed two post-trial motions - a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b). In granting the motion, the district court reconsidered its position at trial and struck the testimony of the only expert on future costs. The court then entered an amended judgment setting aside just over $3 million of the judgment. The First Circuit vacated the judgment below, holding that the district court erred. View "Santos-Arrieta v. Hospital Del Maestro, Inc." on Justia Law