Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

In a recent case, a mother sued her daughter’s doctor after her daughter overdosed on a combination of prescription and non-prescription pills. The daughter died on May 18, 2013 after she took a lethal combination of pills. On May 15, 2015, the mother filed the claim against her daughter’s doctor, alleging that the doctor negligently prescribed her daughter a combination of opiates and sedatives, causing her death. The claim was filed three days before the claim’s two-year statute of limitations expired.

Random PillsThe doctor argued that the complaint should be dismissed because the woman failed to file a certificate of merit along with the complaint. State law requires plaintiffs in medical malpractice claims to file a certificate of merit at the time the complaint is filed. The certificate of merit has to state that the attorney or the plaintiff certifies that the person has consulted with a qualified health care provider, and the health care provider described the standard of care required, indicated that it was reasonably likely that the plaintiff would be able to show the defendant failed to meet that standard, and indicated that it was reasonably likely that the plaintiff would be able to show that the defendant’s failure to meet the standard caused the plaintiff’s injury. Since the mother did not file the certificate of merit at the time she filed the complaint, the mother subsequently filed a motion to amend the complaint to add a certificate of merit. However, the trial court rejected her motion and dismissed the case.

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In a recent case, a plaintiff who was receiving treatment at a hospital was injured as he was being moved on a gurney within the hospital by medical personnel. While the plaintiff was being transferred, the gurney tipped over, and he suffered fractures as a result. The plaintiff filed a claim against the hospital. The complaint was filed more than a year but less than two years after the injury.

StretcherIn the plaintiff’s jurisdiction, general negligence cases were subject to a two-year statute of limitations, whereas medical malpractice cases were subject to a one-year statute of limitations. The defendants argued that the claim was filed too late, since there was a one-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case.

After the case was decided, the state’s supreme court then decided that in negligence cases involving the use of medical equipment, a specific section of the state’s code applied. The case was reconsidered in light of the supreme court’s holding. The court found that since in this case the negligence was related to the plaintiff’s medical diagnosis and treatment, the negligence occurred “in the rendering of professional services,” and his case was subject to the one-year statute of limitations.

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In a recent case, a 90-year-old woman was admitted to a hospital in 2009. During her stay at the hospital, the woman suffered several complications, and she died within weeks of her arrival. The woman’s son requested her medical records, and he received them almost one year after her death. A little over one year after receiving the records, the son obtained a professional opinion that the woman’s doctors were negligent in treating her. One month after obtaining that opinion, the son filed a complaint against his mother’s two doctors, who cared for her during her hospital stay.

ClockAlmost two years after filing the initial lawsuit, the son had a doctor review his mother’s CT scans that were taken during her stay at the hospital. The son had received this information when he requested his mother’s original medical files. The doctor provided an opinion stating that the radiologist, who had read the CT scans while his mother was staying at the hospital, had failed to identify a collection of fluid in her brain. The reviewing doctor also believed that the radiologist’s failure to identify the fluid caused or contributed to the mother’s death. After receiving the second opinion, the son filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the radiologist under Illinois’ Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/1) and Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6).

The radiologist argued that the case was time-barred because the case was filed more than two years after the mother’s death, exceeding the two-year statute of limitations. The radiologist also argued that the “discovery rule” did not apply in the son’s wrongful death and survival act case. The radiologist also claimed that even if the discovery rule applied, the case was still untimely because the son had enough information to determine whether or not to file more than two years before he filed his complaint.

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Earlier this month, a Massachusetts court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case adopting the continuing course of treatment doctrine. The continuing course of treatment doctrine acts to toll the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases while the defendant is still providing medical care for the plaintiff. Thus, if the doctrine is applied, only once the defendant stops providing medical care will the statute of limitations begin. In the case, Parr v. Rosenthal, the court ultimately adopted the doctrine but declined to apply it in the specific facts presented in the plaintiffs’ case.

HourglassThe Facts

The plaintiffs’ son was born with an unexplained lump on the back of his leg. After several years of unsuccessful diagnosis attempts, the plaintiffs found a group of doctors who were able to identify the lump as a desmoid tumor. While the tumor was identified, none of the doctors treating the boy was familiar with how to treat a desmoid tumor. The treating physicians referred the parents to the defendant, who was another doctor in the group who had not yet met with their son. After discussing the procedure with the boy’s parents, it was agreed that the defendant would perform an emerging procedure called radio frequency ablation.

Unfortunately, the boy was badly burned by the defendant during the procedure, and the procedure could not be completed. The original group of doctors continued to care for the boy, but the defendant provided no follow-up care. Eventually, the boy’s leg needed to be amputated due to the worsening condition of the burn. Several years later, the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against the defendant, naming only him and none of the doctors in his practice group.

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In a recent case in front of a state appellate court, a woman filed a medical malpractice lawsuit after she was treated for a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome. The illness caused her extreme pain around her shoulder and in her arm and also caused her numbness, swelling, and weakness. As a result, she was treated by a doctor who performed a surgery to try to ease the pain by removing one of her ribs. However, the woman suffered severe symptoms after the surgery, including pain whenever she moved her arm and difficulty swallowing food. The woman then sued the doctor for malpractice.

Doctor's CoatThe defendant presented an expert who said that the doctor performed the surgery correctly and provided proper post-operative care. The expert also said that the woman’s symptoms after the surgery were a result of her original illness. To rebut this, the woman presented her own expert, who was a doctor in Mexico. The doctor had examined her about one year before she sought treatment from the defendant. Her expert stated that the defendant had destabilized the woman’s right sternoclavicular joint during the surgery or had disrupted the ligaments that hold it in place.

The defendant objected to the plaintiff’s expert witness, arguing that he was not familiar with the “standard of care” in the United States. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case. However, a court of appeals found that her expert witness, who was licensed to practice medicine in Mexico, was qualified to give an opinion in this case. Importantly, the defendant doctor did not suggest that the standard of care in Mexico was different from the standard of care in the United States. In addition, the Mexican doctor had performed over 500 orthopedic surgeries and around 10 to 12 thoracic outlet syndrome surgeries. He also personally examined the woman before and after her surgery. Thus, the court found that he was qualified to give his opinion, and the jurors were free to give it as much weight as they determined was appropriate.

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In a tragic case of medical malpractice recently decided by one state appellate court, a woman underwent a liposuction procedure at a medical spa and tragically died just a few days later from septic shock. The woman’s husband filed a medical malpractice claim against the company, alleging that the bacteria causing the shock came from the medical spa during his wife’s procedure. He claimed that certain equipment had not been properly disinfected and sterilized.

ScalpelThe case went to trial once, but it resulted in a mistrial based on the improper questioning of a witness in front of the jury. The case was retried, and the jury found in favor of the woman’s husband. The jury awarded him over $3 million in damages. The spa appealed the decision. It argued that there was not sufficient evidence for the jury to find in favor of the husband.

The court explained that it would not set aside the jury’s verdict as long as it was supported by substantial and competent evidence. It also would not second guess determinations of credibility and the weight of the evidence made by the jury. In this case, there was a medical expert who explained how the spa’s procedures for sterilizing and disinfecting the reusable medical equipment used in the procedure breached the standard of care for cosmetic surgeons. There also was evidence that the spa’s breach caused the woman’s death because septic shock occurs after an infection causes the body to go into shock, and she had bacteria present near where she was injected. Even though there was some evidence presented by the defense suggesting that the bacteria could have come from her post-procedure care, the jury’s decision was still reasonable and would not be second guessed. Accordingly, there was substantial evidence supporting the jury’s verdict, and the decision was affirmed.

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In a recent case out of California, a man was injured in an accident with another car, driven by a paramedic supervisor. The paramedic was driving his employer’s truck on the way to the location of an injured victim when the accident occurred. The injured driver subsequently filed a negligence lawsuit against the paramedic. The state’s laws required that lawsuits against health care providers for “professional negligence” be filed within one year of the injury date. In this case, the man’s case was filed past the one-year filing date. As a result, the court found that the claim was time-barred.

HourglassHowever, a case from that state’s supreme court found that the time period applied only to negligence actions that resulted from services provided by virtue of being health care professionals—or in rendering medical care to patients. Thus, in this case, while the paramedic was a medical professional, the accident did not result from negligent medical care. The paramedic was required to drive the car with reasonable care because he was driving a car, not because he was providing health care to a patient because he was a paramedic. Thus, the decision was reversed, and the case was able to proceed.

Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations in Illinois

Every individual who files a claim has to consider the relevant statute of limitations. The statute of limitations refers to the time during which a claim must be filed. The time varies for different claims and depending on where the claims are filed.

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In a recent case, a woman filed suit against a hospital and her doctor for battery after undergoing a medical procedure. She alleged that she had not given her informed consent for having an intrauterine device (IUD) implanted. About a year after she had the IUD implanted, she found out that her IUD had not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration because of the location to which the device had been shipped.

StethoscopeShe filed the complaint but failed to file a medical expert affidavit, as required by state laws. In this particular state, the law required that plaintiffs filing medical malpractice actions file an expert affidavit along with the complaint. However, the woman argued that her claim did not require her to file the expert affidavit because this was a battery claim rather than a medical malpractice claim. Ultimately, the state’s supreme court disagreed, holding that a battery claim against a medical provider based on a lack of informed consent also requires the filing of a medical expert affidavit.

The court held that even though the claim filed was a battery claim, it still had the same requirements of a general medical malpractice claim. Since cases involving the issue of informed consent generally consider the professional standard required in such cases, they are subject to the same requirements no matter which claim is alleged. There is a question of what the professional standard is in obtaining informed consent. As a result, a medical expert affidavit was required, stating that the expert supports the allegations in the claim.

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In a recent case, a woman had surgery done at a hospital and subsequently suffered a stroke. The woman filed a products liability claim against the manufacturer of one of the medical devices in the surgery. However, when the complaint was originally filed, it did not name the hospital or the doctor as defendants. It also did not state a claim for medical malpractice. Several months later, the woman requested to file an amended complaint to add the defendants and allege medical malpractice. She then filed the amended complaint almost four months after the original complaint.

HourglassThe hospital and the doctor then moved for summary judgment, alleging that the filings were untimely. In the jurisdiction where the case arose, a medical malpractice action must be filed within two years of the cause of action accruing. The original complaint was filed just one day before the two-year statute of limitations had run. Thus, by the time the woman amended the complaint, the new claim against the defendants was not timely. The court granted the defendants’ motions because the claims were filed against them after the statute of limitations had expired. The state supreme court agreed, resulting in the dismissal of the claim.

Amending a Complaint and Its Effect on the Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the time period during which a plaintiff can bring a certain kind of claim. The period of time varies depending on the type of claim and the jurisdiction, or the place in which it is filed. Often, the time begins to run from the date of the injury, the date that an injury was discovered, or the date that it should have been discovered.

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A woman filed a negligence case against a doctor after the doctor left a surgical sponge in her abdomen while she was undergoing gastric bypass surgery. The woman underwent a gastric bypass surgery in 2003, and she had several follow-up appointments in the subsequent years. The woman said that she began having uncomfortable sensations and pain in her stomach about one year after the surgery. The woman described these symptoms to her doctor at several follow-up appointments.

SurgeryIn 2009, she had a CT scan done for an unrelated condition, which revealed that she had a surgical sponge in her abdomen. She had it removed immediately. Less than a year later, the woman brought a medical malpractice claim against the doctor, seeking compensation for her medical expenses as well as for the pain and suffering she endured.

The defendants argued that the woman’s claim was barred because the statute of limitations had passed. The woman’s attorney argued that the claim was not barred, due to the “continuing course of treatment doctrine.” Under the state’s continuing course of treatment doctrine, a plaintiff generally needs to show that 1) there was a medical condition that required ongoing treatment or monitoring; 2) the defendant provided ongoing treatment or monitoring after the negligent treatment; and 3) the plaintiff brought the claim within the statute of limitations after the treatment ended.

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