Articles Posted in Malpractice Verdicts

This blog looks at medical malpractice jury verdicts and explains/speculates why the verdict came out as they did.  This medical malpractice claim in New York involved a lawsuit by a woman in her 60’s against a radiologist for the failure to diagnose breast cancer.  The case settled for $1.6 million.

The Case

wrongfuldeath

Value of Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims

An appellate court in Florida affirmed a defense verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Plaintiff alleged that the doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose and treat the decedent’s cervical cord compression, a condition which eventually caused the man to suffer from quadriplegia.

Plaintiff made four arguments on appeal. The one I found interesting was the idea that the doctor’s lawyer made an “impermissible burden-shifting argument” on the issue of the doctor’s negligence when he argued that the plaintiff failed to present testimony from any neurosurgeon that he would have done anything different in treating the patient. Florida law is clear that a plaintiff is not required to prove that the subsequent treating physician would have acted differently in order to prevail at trial.

Certainly, under Maryland and Florida law, lawyers may not in opening or closing statements make comments that mislead the jury as to the appropriate burden of proof. But the court disagrees (as do I) that this is what the doctor’s lawyer was doing in his closing statement.

The family of a severely brain damaged two year-old boy was awarded $55 million dollars yesterday, at the conclusion of a malpractice case, filed last February.

The suit alleged that Johns Hopkins waited too long to perform an emergency caesarean section after complication arose during a home birth. The procedure was performed more than two hours after the mother was rushed to Hopkins.

Tragically, the two year old boy currently suffers from severe and permanent developmental delays, severe brain damage, multiple physical and mental disabilities and cerebral palsy.

  • The family of a man who died at Massachusetts General Hospital has settled its case against the hospital for $850,000. The man died after nurses failed to respond to alarms on his cardiac monitor. This death has shed national attention on the dangers of “alarm fatigue’’ among hospital staff.
  • A few New York courts are taking a new approach to handling the 4,000 medical malpractice suits filed each year. The approach…settling cases early. The pilot program will be using a $3 million grant to train more judges in medical issues, and has been shown to cut court backlogs and save money, while also proving to be a cost savings to hospitals and directly impacting the indemnity insurance of doctors. One of the new rules approved for the medical malpractice cases, in order to expedite things – scheduling Settlement Conferences 45 days after court papers are filed.
  • The Tennessee Court of Appeals issued an opinion on its relatively new certificate of merit rule in Crawford v. Kavanaugh. Maryland has a similar rule and this opinion is a cautionary tale for both Tennessee and Maryland malpractice lawyers. The lesson: don’t take a malpractice case unless you know how to handle it.

Medical malpractice verdicts are at new recent history lows, according to Public Citizen. Their new report tracks malpractice verdicts from National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB began tracking medical malpractice payments in 1990. The number of malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors in 2010 was the lowest on record. The total number of payments made on behalf of doctors fell to 10,195 in 2010; down from a high of 16,566 in 2001.

No one is suggesting that there is 33% less medical malpractice than there was in 2001. Clearly, doctors and malpractice insurers are winning the public relations war which is leading to lower verdicts and more damage caps. Will that tide turn again? Historically, the public’s tolerance for injustice to victims of malpractice and injury generally waxes and wanes.

Two usual friends, doctors and malpractice carriers, part company resulting in a $3.4 million verdict handed down against Medicus Insurance Company. A Texas jury found that the company committed unfair and deceptive practices when it wrongly denied insurance coverage to a Dallas doctor. Specifically, the jury found that the malpractice insurance company misrepresented the quality and standards of its indemnification practices, resulting in millions of dollars in damages for the doctor.

What? It is confusing. But apparently the doctor got hit with a verdict and the insurance company refused to pay, leaving the doctor in the lurch. You can get more, albeit sketchy, details here.

A rare medical malpractice trial where the issue was on damages: the hospital admitted fault and the jury awarded a modest – by medical malpractice trial standards where the injuries are usually catastrophic or the loss of a loved one – verdict of $250,000 which was affirmed on appeal in South Carolina.

The defendant made an interesting argument on appeal, arguing that the trial court should have excused “all potential jurors who owed a debt” to the hospital. The trial court removed the four venire members against whom the hospital held civil judgments but denied the hospital’s request to remove others whose debts to AnMed were in default. It is incredible how many people owe debts to the hospital. I can see a juror or two. The hospital asked the appellate court for a a bright-line rule to categorically exclude from jury service all prospective jurors who are in debt to a party in the lawsuit.

Appellate courts have bright line rules. So they relied on the catch all “Does any member feel like they have any interest, sensitivity, bias or prejudice which would prevent you from being a fair and impartial juror in this case?”

A Queens couple was awarded $5.5 million by a hospital medical malpractice lawsuit involving injuries that occurred during childbirth.

The Business Wire article is really a press release so we don’t exactly have impartial journalist providing the information. Remember in this post I’m taking the press release at face value ($5.5 million verdict makes this easier), it sound like the delivering doctor’s arrogance contributed both to the woman’s injuries and the jury’s verdict. Ultimately, the claim is that the woman asked for a c-section and the doctors and nurses just ignored her.

Sometimes, I think malpractice lawyers get so bogged down in the medicine that I think there is a tendency to forget the human aspect of how juries react to doctors. This doctor apparently testified that he wondered in and out while this woman was begging for a c-section. Either he was not properly prepared to testify or the doctor was just too arrogant to control. Because you can say the same thing without sounding like a complete jerk.