Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice
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This case arose from a wrongful death and professional negligence action brought by Linda F. Smith, the mother of Kamario Mantrell Smith, an inmate who died after unsuccessful heart surgery and subsequent complications. The defendants were Christopher L. Igtiben, M.D., Dignity Health, and related entities. Smith filed her complaint on November 22, 2022, alleging that the defendants' failure to recognize her son's sickle cell anemia before ordering a CT scan with contrast ultimately led to his death. Dr. Igtiben filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the applicable statute of limitations under NRS 41A.097(2) had expired. The district court denied the dismissal motion.The Court of Appeals of Nevada found that Smith had been placed on inquiry notice of potential professional negligence and wrongful death claims when she received her son's medical records in January 2020. Accordingly, NRS 41A.097(2) required her to file any professional negligence or wrongful death action within one year from that date. Because Smith did not file her complaint until November 2022, the statute of limitations had expired, and the district court should have dismissed the complaint as untimely. As a result, the court granted the writ of mandamus and directed the clerk to issue a writ instructing the district court to dismiss the complaint. View "Igtiben v. Eighth Jud. Dist. Ct." on Justia Law

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In the medical malpractice case concerning the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from Lillian Birt, her daughter Jenafer Meeks sued the treating doctors, Wei Peng and Christina G. Richards, both individually and on behalf of Ms. Birt's heirs and estate. The children of Ms. Birt had decided to discontinue her life support based on the misinformation they received from the doctors about her condition. The doctors inaccurately portrayed her condition as terminal, leading the children to believe that the treatment was only prolonging her life unnaturally. However, Ms. Birt's condition was not terminal, and there was a high probability of her recovery if the treatment had continued.In the Supreme Court of the State of Utah, the doctors appealed on two issues. Firstly, they argued that the trial court's jury instruction 23 was incorrect as it did not explicitly state that Ms. Meeks had the burden to prove the standard of care. Secondly, they contended that the lower court erred in denying their motion for judgment as a matter of law on the survival claim due to lack of evidence that Ms. Birt experienced pain and suffering in the hours between the doctors' negligence and her death.The Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly instructed the jury that Ms. Meeks had the burden to prove the standard of care, as the instruction implicitly required the jury to determine the standard of care as part of proving a breach of it. However, the Supreme Court agreed with the doctors that Ms. Meeks failed to provide evidence of Ms. Birt's experience of pain, suffering, or inconvenience during the period between the doctors' negligence and her death. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the lower court. View "Peng v. Meeks" on Justia Law

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In 2019, Keith McWhorter and his wife, Carol, filed a lawsuit against Baptist Healthcare System, Inc., alleging medical negligence and loss of consortium. The defendant argued that the plaintiffs failed to file a certificate of merit as required by Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 411.167, a law enacted to reduce meritless lawsuits against medical providers. The trial court dismissed the case with prejudice due to this omission. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing they had complied with the requirements of KRS 411.167(7) and that the defendant had waived the certificate of merit argument by not including it in their initial answer. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's dismissal.Upon review, the Supreme Court of Kentucky held that none of the issues the plaintiffs raised were properly preserved for appellate review, as they did not call these errors to the attention of the trial court. However, the court did note that had the claim of compliance under KRS 411.167(7) been properly before the court, they would have held that a plaintiff must file this information with the complaint. As a result, the Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision, dismissing the case with prejudice. View "MCWHORTER V. BAPTIST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM, INC." on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice case, the Supreme Court of Kentucky analyzed KRS 411.167, a law requiring claimants to file a certificate of merit alongside their complaint. The plaintiff, Mario Sanchez, had filed a suit against doctors and the medical facility, but without a certificate of merit. The trial court dismissed the case because Sanchez failed to comply with KRS 411.167. Sanchez appealed, arguing that the certificate requirement only applied to parties representing themselves, and that his responses to the defendant's discovery requests effectively complied with the statute. The Court of Appeals disagreed with Sanchez's interpretation but remanded the case back to the trial court to determine if Sanchez's failure to file a certificate of merit was due to excusable neglect under CR 6.02.The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed that KRS 411.167 applies to all claimants, whether represented by counsel or not, and rejected Sanchez's argument that he technically and substantively complied with the statute. The court ruled that strict compliance with the statute was required, rendering the statute effectively meaningless if only substantial compliance was necessary. The court reversed the Court of Appeals' decision to remand the case back to the trial court, stating that Sanchez's failure to adequately request relief under CR 6.02 at the trial court level should not benefit him now. The Supreme Court upheld the trial court's decision to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice due to Sanchez's failure to file a certificate of merit. View "MCMILLIN, M.D. V. SANCHEZ" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed the judgment of the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Washington County, in a medical malpractice action brought by Vivian Nipper against Dr. Lore Wootton, M.D., Dr. Robert Mairs, D.O., and the Weiser Memorial Hospital District. Nipper alleged that she was injured during the delivery of her child via a cesarean section when Dr. Wootton negligently cut her bladder, causing significant damage. Dr. Mairs was called to assist in repairing the injury, but Nipper alleged his efforts also fell below the standard of care.After a significant period of discovery, both Dr. Wootton and Dr. Mairs moved for summary judgment on the claims asserted against them. In response to each motion, Nipper moved for Rule 56(d) relief, requesting additional time to respond. The district court denied both requests for Rule 56(d) relief and granted summary judgment in favor of Dr. Wootton and Dr. Mairs.The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denials of Rule 56(d) relief and subsequent grants of summary judgment. The Court found that Nipper failed to provide specific reasons why she could not present essential facts to oppose the summary judgment motion within the allotted timeframes. Further, the Court concluded that Nipper failed to set forth a satisfactory explanation for why, after two years, such essential evidence was not sought earlier. View "Nipper V. Wootton" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Dane Templeton suffered an injury to his right knee and thigh after being thrown from a golf cart. Dr. Charles Orth operated on Templeton’s injured leg and provided follow-up care for several months. In 2015, Templeton returned to Dr. Orth due to swelling in his knee, prompting another surgery and more follow-up care that lasted until August 2016. However, Templeton decided to seek a second opinion from Dr. Michael Tilley in September 2016. After receiving an alternative treatment plan from Dr. Tilley, Templeton decided to follow this new plan and stopped taking the antibiotics prescribed by Dr. Orth. On October 9, 2018, Templeton filed a lawsuit against Dr. Orth for medical malpractice, alleging negligence in his treatment.Dr. Orth sought summary judgment, arguing that the lawsuit was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. According to Dr. Orth, Templeton ended the physician-patient relationship when he sought treatment from Dr. Tilley without following up with Dr. Orth. The circuit court agreed with Dr. Orth, concluding that the lawsuit was indeed barred by the statute of limitations. Templeton appealed this decision, arguing that the continuing care doctrine should have tolled the statute of limitations.The Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed the circuit court's judgment. The Supreme Court determined that Templeton had actively ended the continuing care relationship with Dr. Orth when he chose to follow Dr. Tilley's treatment plan and stopped taking the antibiotics prescribed by Dr. Orth. As such, Templeton's lawsuit, filed more than two years after ending the physician-patient relationship, was barred by the statute of limitations. The Court clarified that the continuing care doctrine did not apply because the relationship had ended before the necessity for treatment had ceased. View "Templeton vs. Orth" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court decision in a medical malpractice case where the plaintiff's mother died in a nursing home. The plaintiff, Chappelle Gales, alleged that her mother died due to inadequate care provided by the nursing home, and she sought to support her claim with expert testimony. However, the district court excluded the testimony of the plaintiff's expert witness, Dr. Edwin Polverino, due to his unfamiliarity with local medical standards in Memphis, Tennessee where the nursing home is located. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment in favor of the nursing home, Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, on the basis that without expert testimony, the plaintiff could not establish the essential elements of a state law medical malpractice claim.The Court of Appeals held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the expert's testimony. According to Tennessee's Healthcare Liability Act, for a medical malpractice action, the plaintiff must establish the "recognized standard of acceptable professional practice" in the community where the defendant practices or in a similar community. However, the plaintiff's expert witness, who practiced in Virginia, admitted that he had not looked into the standard of care in Memphis. The court held that a national standard of care could not be substituted for a local standard of care under Tennessee law. The court further held that the plaintiff had failed to establish that the expert was familiar with the standard of care in a community similar to Memphis. As a result, without admissible medical expert testimony regarding the recognized standard of professional care in Memphis or a similar community, the nursing home was entitled to summary judgment. View "Gales v. Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case involves a medical malpractice suit against Hospital San Cristobal (HSC), Dr. Iris Vélez García, and Dr. Zacarías A. Mateo Minaya by the children of Ramona Rodríguez Rivera, who passed away while in the care of HSC. The plaintiffs alleged that their mother received negligent care at HSC during and following an abdominal surgery performed by Dr. Vélez and Dr. Mateo, leading to her death. The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court held that the district court did not err in excluding the plaintiffs' expert witness's testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The expert's report failed to identify the standard of care that HSC staff should have adhered to in their management of the patient's diabetes and how the staff deviated from that standard. Without this expert testimony, the plaintiffs could not establish a breach of the defendants' duty of care, a necessary element of a negligence claim. The appellate court also found no error in the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants as there was no evidence in the record that could show the defendants' negligence. View "Rivera Rodriguez v. Hospital San Cristobal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Texas considered a medical negligence case where a 13-year-old girl, Raynee Dunnick, was bitten by a rattlesnake and was treated by Dr. Kristy Marsillo at a local hospital. The hospital had a specific guideline for snakebite treatment, which was followed by Dr. Marsillo. This guideline recommends administering antivenom, a treatment for snakebite, only when certain clinical parameters are met. According to the guideline, the risk of side effects from the antivenom should also be considered.Raynee and her parents sued Dr. Marsillo, claiming that her adherence to the guidelines and her decision not to immediately administer the antivenom upon Raynee's arrival at the hospital was negligent and resulted in Raynee's pain, suffering, impairment, and disfigurement. The trial court granted Dr. Marsillo's motion for summary judgment on the grounds of no-evidence of breach of duty and causation. The court of appeals reversed this decision, but Dr. Marsillo appealed to the Supreme Court of Texas.In its decision, the Supreme Court of Texas held that under section 74.153(a) of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a heightened standard of proof is required for a patient's negligence claim against a physician for injuries arising out of the provision of emergency medical care. The claimant must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the physician acted with willful and wanton negligence, which is at least equivalent to gross negligence.The court found that the evidence presented by Raynee did not meet this standard. Specifically, the court found that the expert affidavit provided by Raynee was conclusory and did not adequately explain why the guidelines should have been disregarded or why doing so would have posed an extreme degree of risk to Raynee. Therefore, the court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and reinstated the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of Dr. Marsillo. View "MARSILLO v. DUNNICK" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of Ohio, the main issue was whether the four-year medical-claims statute of repose, set forth in R.C. 2305.113(C), applies to wrongful-death claims based on medical care. The facts of the case involved Todd Everhart, who had been involved in a car accident in 2003 and was subsequently transferred to Coshocton County Memorial Hospital. Despite finding an abnormality in his chest x-rays, the doctors did not inform him about it. Nearly three years later, Everhart was diagnosed with advanced-stage lung cancer and died two months later. His wife, Machelle Everhart, filed a lawsuit against the hospital and the doctors involved, alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death due to their failure to inform Mr. Everhart of his lung condition.The Supreme Court of Ohio held that the broad definition of "medical claim" clearly and unambiguously includes wrongful-death claims based on medical care. Therefore, the four-year medical-claims statute of repose applies to such claims. The court ruled that the Tenth District Court of Appeals erroneously held otherwise and thus reversed its decision. The court remanded the case to the Tenth District Court of Appeals to address Mrs. Everhart's remaining assignment of error. View "Everhart v. Coshocton Cty. Mem. Hosp." on Justia Law