Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Vermont Supreme Court

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Dr. Stephanie Taylor appealed Vermont Medical Practice Board decision denying her request to vacate the provisions of a 2005 consent order in which she agreed to a “final and irrevocable” surrender of her medical license. Dr. Taylor contended the Board erroneously: (1) failed to determine whether there were “less restrictive means available to regulate [her] conduct”; (2) violated her right to due process by “shift[ing] the burden onto [her] . . . to guess at the Board’s requirements for reinstatement;” (3) relied on the specification of charges that led to the earlier consent order; and (4) considered a Massachusetts decision revoking her medical license in that state. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Stephanie H. Taylor, M.D." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on a jury award of emotional distress and economic damages in a legal malpractice action. Defendant challenged the damages award on the grounds that emotional distress damages were not available in a legal malpractice case and that the award of economic damages equal to the amount plaintiff paid to settle the underlying case was improper because plaintiff failed to establish that the underlying settlement was reasonable. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed as to the award of emotional distress damages and affirmed as to the economic damages award. View "Vincent v. DeVries" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether a physician could be held answerable as a matter of professional discipline solely on the basis of a physicians assistant’s (PA) unprofessional acts. The Board of Medical Practice concluded that it was not required to find Dr. Jon Porter guilty of unprofessional conduct based solely on the acts of a PA whom he supervised. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that state law did not make supervising physicians answerable as a matter of professional discipline solely for the unprofessional acts of PAs they supervise because the applicable statute does not pertain to professional responsibility. Furthermore, state law provides no basis for disciplining a supervising physician whose PA has committed an unprofessional act where the supervising physician has met or exceeded all standards of care. View "In re Jon Porter, M.D." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Celeste Puppolo, executor of the Estate of Eva Puppolo, appealed a jury verdict in favor of Defendant Donovan & O'Connor, LLC stemming from a legal malpractice action. Plaintiff claimed that the trial court erred in denying a motion to withdraw her counsel, that she was denied a fair trial when the court allowed Defendant’s attorney to testify to the merits of the underlying medical malpractice action, and that the trial court improperly admitted expert testimony that exceeded the scope of the defendant’s expert disclosure. Plaintiff's was unpersuaded by the results of investigations into the death of her aunt Eva, and consulted with Defendant about bringing a wrongful death and survivorship claim against the aunt's nursing home and attending physicians. In light of the autopsy report, and the conclusions of the police, Defendant declined to take the case. Defendant told Plaintiff that the limitations period for the survival action began to accrue when she was appointed executor of the estate. Defendant conceded that this statement was incorrect and that the limitations period had actually begun to accrue two months earlier, when the original executor was appointed. Defendant also conceded that it failed to specifically notify Plaintiff of the two year limitations period for the wrongful death action. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the home and physicians through another attorney. Both claims were dismissed on summary judgment as time-barred. Plaintiff subsequently filed suit against Defendant, claiming that her reliance on its legal advice deprived her of the opportunity to pursue the wrongful death and survivorship claims for her aunt's death. Upon review, the Supreme Court found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its decisions in Plaintiff's case. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the jury verdict against Plaintiff. View "Puppolo v. Donovan & O'Connor, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Terrance White appealed a superior court's order in his wrongful death action that granted summary judgment to Defendant Fletcher Allen Health Care, Inc. This case arose from the suicide of Plaintiff's fourteen-year-old daughter. Plaintiff sued Defendant, which employed a psychiatrist who was briefly involved with the decedent's case through a telepsychiatry research study. Plaintiff argued that summary judgment was improperly granted on the issue of the duty owed to decedent by the psychiatrist. Ultimately, the trial court found that the psychiatrist's contact with decedent was "so minimal as to not establish a physician-patient relationship," and consequently found that no duty existed at the time of decedent's death. Even assuming that a doctor-patient relationship was established, the court concluded that it was terminated following the video-conference and, thus, any duty was extinguished by termination of the relationship and no duty existed at the time of decedent's death. The court thus granted defendant's summary judgment motion. Plaintiff argued that the court erred in finding that the doctor owed no duty to decedent. They maintained that the doctor had a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect decedent from the danger she posed to herself, and that the doctor did not effectively terminate the doctor-patient relationship prior to decedent's death. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with Plaintiff and thus reversed the trial court's decision and remanded the case for additional proceedings. View "White v. Harris" on Justia Law