Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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Contrary to the conclusion of the court of appeals in this medical malpractice action, Plaintiff’s failure to produce expert evidence was fatal to his claim and summary judgment was properly granted to Defendants. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendants were negligent in treating, or failing to treat, his illness while he was an inmate in the Hardin County Detention Center. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants on summary judgment because Plaintiff had no expert evidence to establish the relevant standards of care or to show that Defendants’ breach of the standard of care caused Plaintiff’s damages. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the negligent conduct asserted by Plaintiff fit within the res ipsa loquitur doctrine and thus could be supported at trial without expert opinion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in the absence of expert testimony to the contrary, Plaintiff’s evidence failed to create a genuine issue of material fact as to Defendants’ breach of a standard of care, and therefore, as a matter of law, Defendants were correctly granted summary judgment. View "Adams v. Sietsema" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s acknowledgement that she would not present an expert witness to prove her informed consent claim was not fatal to her case and thus was not a proper basis for entry of a directed verdict. Plaintiff brought this medical malpractice claim alleging that Defendant failed to obtain her informed consent before undertaking a surgical procedure on her. The trial court entered a directed verdict in favor of Defendant after Plaintiff conceded that she would not present an expert’s testimony. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred in dismissing the case too hastily since the evidence to be presented at trial may have established an exception to the general rule requiring expert testimony to establish a professional standard of care. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court erred in granting the directed verdict. View "Argotte v. Harrington" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the doctor (Defendant) who twice performed surgery on Plaintiff to repair a fracture, alleging (1) Defendant made mistakes during the initial surgery that resulted in the failure of the fracture to heal, and (2) following the second surgery, the doctor failed to timely identify an infection, which necessitated two additional surgeries. A trial ensued. The judge declared a mistrial because Defendant had mentioned insurance several times in violation of a court order. After a second trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the doctor. The court entered an order granting Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions given Defendant’s “contemptuous conduct” in the first trial and the fact that Defendant compounded his conduct in the second trial. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial but affirmed the imposition of sanctions against Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and vacated the trial court’s order imposing sanctions on Defendant, holding (1) the trial court did not err when it denied Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial; and (2) the trial court erred in failing to notify Defendant that it was finding him in contempt and whether the contempt was civil or criminal. View "Jefferson v. Eggemeyer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, a general surgeon, alleging that Defendant negligently performed a surgical procedure known as an anastomosis. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the fairness of her trial was compromised when the trial court mistakenly denied her request to subject the parties’ expert witnesses to the ordinary separation of witnesses rule - Ky. R. Evid. 615. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court abused its discretion by exempting the defense’s expert witnesses from sequestration without an adequate showing of need; but (2) the trial court’s error was harmless. View "McAbee v. Chapman" on Justia Law

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Tim Agee, individually and on the behalf of the estate of his wife, Eva, sued Baptist Health Richmond, Inc. and other medical care providers alleging that Eva’s death was the result of medical negligence. During discovery, Agee requested from Baptist Health the production of certain documents. Baptist Health refused to produce the documents, claiming that they were protected from disclosure by the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005. Agee filed a motion to compel, which the trial court granted in part. Thereafter, Baptist Health filed an original action in the court of appeals seeking a writ of prohibition. The court of appeals denied the request, citing the plurality opinion in Tibbs v. Bunnell. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s discovery order and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the correct result in this case lay in middle ground between the plurality and the dissenting opinions in Tibbs. Remanded with instructions for the trial court to undertake the review set forth in this opinion. View "Baptist Health Richmond, Inc. v. Hon. William Clouse" on Justia Law

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The executor of the estate of James Gray and Gray’s statutory survivors (collectively, the Estate) filed a complaint against Saint Joseph Hospital alleging that the Hospital had engaged in medical negligence in its treatment of Gray following two visits to the Hospital’s emergency room. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Estate. The circuit court awarded $1.45 million in punitive damages, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support an award of punitive damages; (2) the evidence established that the Hospital ratified its staff’s misconduct so as to authorize an award of punitive damages against it; (3) the jury was properly instructed regarding the Hospital’s liability based upon tortious conduct of the independent contractor physicians engaged to provide emergency room services; (4) the punitive damage award did not violate the Due Process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by not dismissing an alleged sleeping juror. View "Saint Joseph Healthcare, Inc. v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Pratikshya Gurung (“the Estate”) was born with brain damage and quadriplegia. The Estate filed in the circuit court a medical negligence action against Norton Hospital. During the course of discovery, the Estate requested production from Norton of various hospital documents relating to patient safety. Norton argued that the documents were not discoverable. The trial court compelled the production of the disputed documents and denied Norton’s privileged claim. Norton filed a petition in the court of appeals for a writ of prohibition and a request for an order staying execution of the trial court’s discovery order. The Estate, in turn, received an emergency hearing with the trial court. Before the hearing on Norton’s emergency motion in the court of appeals and after the Estate’s emergency hearing with the trial court, the trial court handed the copies of the disputed documents directly to counsel for the Estate. The court of appeals subsequently dismissed Norton’s writ petition as moot. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal, holding that the court of appeals abused its discretion because its decision was not based on sound legal principles. Remanded for consideration of Norton’s asserted privilege. View "Norton Hospitals, Inc. v. Hon. Barry Willett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against William Shaffer, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon, alleging that Dr. Shaffer failed to obtain her informed consent before operating on her. The jury returned verdicts in favor of Dr. Shaffer, and the trial court entered judgment accordingly. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the judgment should be set aside because the trial court’s jury instructions misstated the law regarding informed consent. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the instruction given in this case was erroneous because it failed to incorporate the law applicable to a medical provider’s duty to obtain informed consent. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Sargent v. Shaffer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Defendant, a medical doctor, claiming that Defendant failed to obtain her informed consent before operating on her. The jury returned a verdict for Defendant, and the trial court entered judgment accordingly. The court of appeals affirmed. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the judgment should be set aside because the trial court’s instructions to the jury misstated the law regarding informed consent. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the instruction given in this case was in error because it failed to incorporate the law applicable to a medical provider’s duty to obtain informed consent; and (2) Plaintiff was prejudiced by the erroneous instruction. View "Sargent v. Shaffer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff in the underlying medical malpractice action sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the trial court from enforcing its order permitting counsel for the defendant in the underlying action (Dr. Castro) to contact Plaintiff’s treating physicians ex parte. The Court of Appeals declined to issue a writ, finding (1) no Kentucky law prohibits the trial court from authorizing ex parte correspondence with nonexpert treating physicians, and (2) the trial court’s order did not violate any right Plaintiff had to privacy of her medical information because the order did not compel any disclosure. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) HIPAA does not prohibit ex parte interviews with treating physicians but does regulate the protected health information to be disclose in ex parte interviews; (2) Kentucky law places no restrictions on voluntary ex parte interviews with non expert treating physicians; and (3) the challenged order at issue in this case did not satisfy HIPPA procedural requirements for the disclosure of protected health information, but because the order expressly withheld the necessary authorization, a writ need not issue. View "Caldwell v. Hon. A.C. McKay Chauvin" on Justia Law