Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Medical Malpractice
Wilson v. United States
Pretrial detainee Wilson complained to Philadelphia Federal Detention Center medical staff about a lump on his testicle in November 2017. They allegedly stated that such a lump was probably cancerous. Wilson subsequently complained that his condition worsened but received no further treatment. Wilson was transferred to Bureau of Prisons custody, where a urologist determined in February 2018 that the lump was cancerous. Wilson's right testicle was surgically removed. Wilson believed that if his cancer had been addressed earlier, treatment would not have involved chemotherapy and surgery.Wilson alleged medical negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The court granted extensions for Wilson (pro se) to act on Pennsylvania Rule 1042.3, which requires medical malpractice plaintiffs to certify either that they have expert support for their claims or will proceed without an expert. Wilson explained that he wanted an expert but conceded the impossibility of obtaining one during the pandemic prison lockdowns. He stated that his medical records would demonstrate that his injury “was not inevitable" and specifically identified documents as discoverable material to substantiate his allegations, The court granted the government summary judgment stating that, while a factfinder could find without expert testimony that the delay in treatment was unreasonable, the issue of whether the delay caused the need to remove Wilson’s testicle required expert testimony.The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the FTCA does not incorporate Rule 1042.3. Wilson did not otherwise have an adequate opportunity to seek out an expert or conduct discovery due to his unique position as a pro se inmate during the pandemic. View "Wilson v. United States" on Justia Law
Davis, et al. v. Mercy Medical Center, et al.
Mercy Medical Center d/b/a CHI St. Alexius Health Williston; and David Keene, M.D. (Defendants), appealed an amended judgment awarding Michael and Kimberly Davis $1,660,000 in damages and $204,973.31 in costs and disbursements for medical malpractice relating to Michael’s kidney failure. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the trial court awarded disbursements not authorized by N.D.C.C. § 28-26-06 and allowed other costs without explanation. The Court reversed the Davises’ award of disbursements and costs and remanded for further proceedings. View "Davis, et al. v. Mercy Medical Center, et al." on Justia Law
McLaughlin v. Nahata, et al.
During their employment with Dialysis Clinic, Inc. (DCI), the Doctors maintained staff privileges and worked at Washington Hospital. In 2013, Alyssa McLaughlin was admitted to the Hospital and received treatment from, among other medical staff, the Doctors, Kathryn Simons, M.D., Anne F. Josiah, M.D., Thomas Pirosko, D.O., and Ashely Berkley, D.O. At some point during or after that treatment, McLaughlin sustained severe and permanent neurological injuries. Attributing those injuries to negligence in her treatment, McLaughlin and her husband, William McLaughlin (collectively, the McLaughlins), initiated an action against the Doctors, the Hospital, and the other physicians noted above who were responsible for her care. The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review centered on whether, as a matter of law, the Hospital could seek contribution and/or indemnity from DCI for negligence committed by DCI’s employees (the Doctors). The trial and superior courts both concluded that, although traditional principles of contribution and indemnity did not apply cleanly these particular circumstances, equitable principles of law permitted the Hospital to seek both contribution and indemnity from DCI. As a result, the trial court denied DCI’s motion for summary relief, and the superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court was unanimous in finding that, if the Hospital and DCI were determined to be vicariously liable for the negligence of the Doctors, the law permitted the Hospital to seek contribution from DCI. The Court was evenly divided on the question of whether the Hospital could also seek indemnification from DCI. Given the decision on contribution and inability to reach a decision on indemnity, the superior court was affirmed on those questions. View "McLaughlin v. Nahata, et al." on Justia Law
Hrymoc v. Ethicon, Inc.
In this products liability matter involving “pelvic mesh” medical devices, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether defendant C.R. Bard, Inc., was denied a fair trial by the trial court’s determination that defendant could not present 510(k) clearance evidence -- evidence that, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 360c, the devices were allowed to be marketed without premarket clinical trials -- to counter the product liability claims brought by plaintiffs Mary and Thomas Walsh McGinnis. North Carolina surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Barbee implanted Bard’s “Align TO” and “Avaulta Solo” pelvic mesh devices. In the months following surgery, McGinnis had to undergo numerous invasive surgeries to remove the mesh and repair internal damage, with limited success. In 2011, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant Bard under North Carolina law. Counsel agreed that the substantive issues would be tried under the law of North Carolina but that the issue of damages would be tried under New Jersey law. Plaintiffs moved in limine to bar defendant from presenting any evidence of the devices’ 510(k) clearance to the jury. The trial court found the 510(k) evidence inadmissible. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that the exclusion of any 510(k) evidence deprived defendant of a fair trial on the issue of negligence. The Supreme Court agreed that 510(k) evidence was generally inadmissible because the 510(k) clearance process solely determines substantial equivalency, and not safety and efficacy. However, in a products liability claim premised on the reasonableness of a manufacturer’s conduct in not performing clinical trials or studies, the Court held evidence of 510(k) clearance had significant probative value under N.J.R.E. 401 that was not substantially outweighed by the risk of prejudice and potential juror confusion under N.J.R.E. 403. Therefore, under the specific facts and circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division and remanded for a new trial. The Court disagreed with the Appellate Division’s decision regarding the scope and admissibility of 510(k) evidence and a Rule 104 hearing. To this, the Supreme Court believed the scope and admissibility of 510(k) evidence should be resolved at the hearing on a motion in limine, which was how the issue was and, presumably, would be raised. View "Hrymoc v. Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law
Ottgen v. Katranji
Candi Ottgen and her husband brought a medical malpractice action against Abdalmaijid Katranji, M.D., and others, alleging that Katranji had negligently performed two thumb surgeries on her, first on May 1, 2017, the second July 23, 2017. Plaintiffs filed their action on April 11, 2019, focusing their complaint on the first surgery, but they did not attach an affidavit of merit (AOM) to the complaint as required by MCL 600.2912d(1). On May 9, 2019, defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Scarsella v. Pollak, 461 Mich 547 (2000), which held that filing a medical malpractice complaint without an AOM was ineffective to commence the action and thereby toll the two-year statutory limitations period. Plaintiffs responded by filing an amended complaint with an AOM that had purportedly been executed on January 30, 2019, but was not attached to the original complaint because of a clerical error. Plaintiffs also separately requested permission to make the late filing and contended that it related back to the original complaint. The trial court held that Scarsella was inapplicable because the AOM was completed when the original complaint was filed and its omission from the filing was inadvertent. The trial court also permitted plaintiffs to file their late AOM and allowed it to relate back to the April 2019 complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that Scarsella applied and, accordingly, that plaintiffs’ complaint was untimely with regard to the first surgery, rendering the April 2019 complaint ineffective and leaving nothing for the subsequently filed May 13, 2019 amended complaint to relate back to. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded Scarsella was erroneously decided and failed to survive a stare decisis analysis, and it was therefore overruled. "Filing an AOM under MCL 600.2912d(1) is not required to commence a medical malpractice action and toll the statutory limitations period. Instead, the normal tolling rules apply to medical malpractice actions, and tolling occurs upon the filing of a timely served complaint. A failure to comply with MCL 600.2912d(1) can still be a basis for dismissal of a case; however, the dismissal cannot be based on statute-of-limitations grounds." Because the courts below did not consider the nature of dismissals for violations of MCL 600.2912d(1), the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Ottgen v. Katranji" on Justia Law
Kostadinovski v. Harrington
Drago and Blaga Kostadinovski brought a medical malpractice action against Steven Harrington, M.D. and Advanced Cardiothoracic Surgeons, PLLC, asserting six specific theories with respect to how the doctor breached the standard of care throughout the course of Drago’s mitral-valve-repair surgery in December 2011, during which Drago suffered a stroke. Plaintiffs timely served defendants with a notice of intent (NOI) to file suit, timely served the complaint, and timely served the affidavit of merit. Following the close of discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiffs’ experts were unable to validate or support the six theories asserted by plaintiffs in the NOI, affidavit of merit, and complaint. Plaintiffs agreed to the dismissal of their existing, unsupported negligence allegations and complaint but moved to amend the complaint to assert a new theory. The court denied the motion to amend the complaint, reasoning that amendment would be futile given that the existing NOI would be rendered obsolete because it did not include the new theory. Plaintiffs appealed and defendants cross-appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the trial court for it to apply MCL 600.2301 in considering whether plaintiffs should be allowed to amend the NOI. In a footnote to the opinion, the Court of Appeals rejected plaintiffs’ argument that MCL 600.2912b simply required the service of an NOI before suit was filed and that once a compliant and timely NOI is served, as judged at the time suit is filed and by the language in the original complaint, the requirements of the statute have been satisfied. On remand, the trial court denied plaintiffs’ motion to amend, concluding that amendment would be futile and that amending the complaint would contravene MCL 600.2912b. Plaintiffs appealed. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded MCL 600.2912b did not apply where a plaintiff seeks to amend their complaint against an already-named defendant after suit has already commenced. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Kostadinovski v. Harrington" on Justia Law
Martineau v. McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center
In 2014, decedent Aaron Martineau, age 28, arrived at the McKenzie-Willamette Hospital emergency room, complaining of sudden onset chest pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. He was seen by a physician assistant and by a physician, defendant Gary Josephsen, M.D.; both worked for defendant Doctor’s Emergency Room Corporation, P.C. (collectively, the ER defendants). Defendants did not adequately review the x-ray or refer decedent for further imaging or other tests to rule out or confirm the presence of serious cardiovascular or cardiopulmonary conditions. Instead, they diagnosed him with noncardiac chest pain and discharged him from the hospital. Approximately 24 hours after being discharged, decedent died from an aortic dissection in his heart. In this wrongful death action, two issues were presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review: (1) whether the trial court erred when it instructed the jury that physicians “are not negligent merely because their efforts were unsuccessful” and that a physician “does not guarantee a good result by undertaking to perform a service;” and (2) whether plaintiff had alleged a lost chance claim under Oregon’s survival statute, ORS 30.075, that was separately cognizable from her wrongful death claim under ORS 30.020. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s lost chance claim before trial. Later, when submitting the wrongful death claim to the jury at the close of trial, the court included the challenged instruction—which was taken from Uniform Civil Jury Instruction (UCJI) 44.03 at defendants’ request—in its instructions to the jury. After the jury returned a verdict in defendants’ favor, plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding the trial court had erred in dismissing plaintiff’s lost chance claim and by including UCJI 44.03 in the jury instructions. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded plaintiff did not allege a lost chance claim that was cognizable under Oregon law, and, further, the trial court did not err when it included UCJI 44.03 in the jury instructions. The Court therefore reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court. View "Martineau v. McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center" on Justia Law
Doan v. Banner Health, Inc., et al.
A young woman died of heart failure while hospitalized. Her mother, acting on her own behalf and as personal representative of the woman’s estate, sued the hospital, several doctors, and the doctors’ employers for medical malpractice. In successive orders the superior court decided that all the witnesses proposed by the mother as medical experts failed to meet the statutory requirements for expert testimony on the relevant standards of care. The court also denied the mother’s motion to replace the rejected expert witnesses; granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the mother’s claim for damages for a lost chance of survival, deciding that such a claim was contrary to Alaska’s medical malpractice statutes; and found that the amended complaint sought to impermissibly allege a new claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress against the doctors. The mother appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded that exclusion of the mother’s proposed expert witnesses rested on a misinterpretation of the statutes that governed standard-of-care testimony; this portion of the trial court's judgment was reversed for reconsideration within the proper statutory framework. The Court concluded the superior court did not abuse its discretion by denying the mother’s tardy request to replace one of her expert witnesses, who had lost the necessary board certification years earlier. The Court also affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the loss of chance claim, concluding, as the superior court did, that whether to recognize such a claim was a policy choice for the legislature to make. Finally, the Supreme Court concluded that under Alaska’s generous notice pleading rules, the mother adequately alleged a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress against the doctors, and it was not necessary for her to amend her complaint in order to pursue such a claim. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Doan v. Banner Health, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Noonan v. Sambandam
The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the superior court granting Defendant's motion to compel production of a complete, unreacted copy of a settlement agreement between Plaintiffs and the former codefendants who settled Plaintiffs' claims, holding that the trial justice abused her discretion in granting Defendant's motion.In granting Defendant's motion to compel production, the trial justice concluded that the amount paid in accordance with the settlement agreement was not discoverable "pursuant to Rhode Island and federal law." When Plaintiffs failed to comply with the order the superior court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below and remanded the case, holding that the trial justice abused her discretion in granting Defendant's motion to compel production of a complete, unreacted copy of the settlement agreement. View "Noonan v. Sambandam" on Justia Law
Parton v. Cook Medical, LLC
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) centralized cases arising out of alleged defects in Cook’s inferior vena cava (IVC) filters, 28 U.S.C. 1407(a). Many plaintiffs in the MDL claim that Cook’s filters cause pain and suffering, disabilities, emotional injuries, lost earnings, increased medical bills, and in some cases death. To help manage the litigation, the district court adopted direct filing and case categorization procedures. Parton and Sykes were each implanted with a Cook IVC filter. Years later, CT scans revealed that their filters had perforated their IVC walls. They experienced no pain or other symptoms, but they pursued product liability claims against Cook. The direct-filing procedure did not require Parton or Sykes to file a standard complaint; each filed a short-form complaint, which incorporated allegations from a master complaint that ostensibly applied to all direct-filing plaintiffs.The district court granted Cook summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction. Jurisdiction in these cases is based solely on diversity of citizenship, which requires the amount in controversy in each case to exceed $75,000, 28 U.S.C. 1332(a). Parton and Sykes allege the proper amount in controversy, but the nature of their alleged injuries indicates that no more than $75,000 is at stake in either case. They have not suffered the injuries alleged in the master complaint; the allegations in their short-form complaints were inadequate. View "Parton v. Cook Medical, LLC" on Justia Law