Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals remanding this case with instructions to enter judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Trust Company of Kansas (TCK) and reverse the jury's verdict finding TCK liable for negligent training, holding that the trial court's jury instructions were erroneous and that, therefore, the case must be remanded for a new trial on proper instructions. Marilyn Parsons sued TCK and its employee, Jon King, asserting various theories of liability. After a trial, the jury found JCK liable for negligent training and King liable for breach of fiduciary duty. The court of appeals reversed as to TCK, finding the evidence insufficient. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court's instructions failed to present the jury with an accurate statement of negligence law and improperly separated Parsons' negligence claim against TCK into two causes of action; and (2) the legal errors affected the verdict. View "Reardon v. King" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs New England Backflow, Inc. (NEB) and Paul Whittemore, appealed a superior court order dismissing several of their claims against defendants the New Hampshire Office of the Fire Marshall (OFM) and Jeremy Cyr, in his official capacity as chief inspector of OFM, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Specifically, plaintiffs challenged the trial court’s dismissal of their declaratory judgment requests and their claims of unconstitutional taking, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. Whittemore started NEB, which installed, repaired, tested, and replaced backflow prevention devices, also known as backflow preventers, for private and public entities. OFM was tipped off by a licensed plumber NEB might be plumbing without a license, which lead to this suit against NEB and Whittemore. Plaintiffs argued to the New Hampshire Supreme Court the trial court erred by: (1) concluding plaintiffs’ declaratory judgment requests were inconsistent with the applicable statutory language without holding an evidentiary hearing; (2) ruling plaintiffs’ request for declaratory judgment relating to a cease and desist order issued by OFM was moot; (3) concluding that Whittemore did not have a vested right to perform his professional work necessary to support plaintiffs’ takings claims; and (4) ruling that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for malicious prosecution and abuse of process. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order because the declarations plaintiffs sought were inconsistent with the plain and ordinary meaning of the relevant statutory language, their request for the cease and desist declaration was moot, and plaintiffs’ remaining claims failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. View "New England Backflow, Inc. v Gagne" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by PrimeCare Medical of West Virginia, Inc. (PrimeCare) to dismiss the Estate of Cody Lawrence Grove's (the Estate) claims against PrimeCare for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the circuit court erred by failing to dismiss the claims against PrimeCare brought under the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA). The Estate sued a correctional officer, a regional jail authority, and Prime Care, which provided monitoring of inmates, arguing that Cody Grove was able to commit suicide while he was an inmate because the correctional officer failed to conduct one or more safety checks on Grove. PrimeCare filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the Estate failed to serve the notice of claim and the screening certificate of merit required by the MPLA. See W. Va. Code 55-7B-6. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's order, holding that to the extent the MPLA's pre-suit notice requirements were not complied with, the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to proceed. View "State ex rel., Primecare Medical of West Virginia, Inc. v. Honorable Laura V. Faircloth" on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on whether an investigative subpoena issued by the Colorado Medical Board (the “Board”) can have a lawfully authorized purpose if the investigation was prompted by a complaint made by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (the “CDPHE”) pursuant to a policy that violated the Open Meetings Law (the “OML”) or the State Administrative Procedure Act (the “APA”). Scott McLaughlin, M.D. was a physician licensed to practice medicine in Colorado. As part of his practice, he evaluated patients to see if they had a qualifying condition that would benefit from the use of medical marijuana. Information related to medical marijuana in Colorado is maintained by the CDPHE in a confidential registry that includes the names of all patients who have applied for and are entitled to receive a marijuana registry identification card, as well as the names and contact information for the patients’ physicians and, if applicable, their primary caregivers. In May 2014, the CDPHE referred McLaughlin to the Board for investigation based on a high caseload of patients for whom marijuana was recommended. McLaughlin refused to comply with the subpoena, and he and several other physicians whom the CDPHE had referred to the Board and who had received subpoenas from the Board filed suit in the Denver District Court, seeking, among other things, to enjoin the Board from enforcing its subpoenas. The Supreme Court concluded that because neither the CDPHE’s adoption of the Referral Policy nor its referral of Boland to the Board violated the OML or the APA, Boland’s contention that the subpoena to him was void because the Policy and referral were void was based on a flawed premise and was therefore unpersuasive. Even if the adoption of the Referral Policy and the referral itself violated the OML or the APA, however, we still conclude that the Board’s subpoena to Boland had a lawfully authorized purpose because it was issued pursuant to the Board’s statutory authority to investigate allegations of unprofessional conduct and was properly tailored to that purpose. View "Colorado Medical Board v. McLaughlin" on Justia Law

by
This case was companion to Colorado Medical Board v. McLaughlin, 2019 CO 93, __ P.3d __, wherein the Colorado Supreme Court was asked to determine whether an investigative subpoena issued by the Colorado Medical Board (the “Board”) could have a lawfully authorized purpose if the investigation was prompted by a complaint made by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (the “CDPHE”) pursuant to a policy that violated the Open Meetings Law (the “OML”) or the State Administrative Procedure Act (the “APA”). Petitioner James Boland, M.D. was a physician licensed to practice medicine in Colorado. He primarily examined patients to determine if they would benefit from the use of medical marijuana. Information related to medical marijuana in Colorado is maintained by the CDPHE in a confidential registry that includes the names of all patients who have applied for and are entitled to receive a marijuana registry identification card, as well as the names and contact information for the patients’ physicians and, if applicable, their primary caregivers. In June 2014, the CDPHE referred Boland to the Board for investigation based on his “[h]igh plant count recommendations and high percent of patients under age of 30 [sic] for medical marijuana referrals.” Boland refused to comply with the subpoena, and he and several other physicians whom the CDPHE had referred to the Board and who had received subpoenas from the Board filed suit in the Denver District Court, seeking, among other things, to enjoin the Board from enforcing its subpoenas. The Supreme Court concluded that because neither the CDPHE’s adoption of the Referral Policy nor its referral of Boland to the Board violated the OML or the APA, Boland’s contention that the subpoena to him was void because the Policy and referral were void was based on a flawed premise and was therefore unpersuasive. Even if the adoption of the Referral Policy and the referral itself violated the OML or the APA, however, we still conclude that the Board’s subpoena to Boland had a lawfully authorized purpose because it was issued pursuant to the Board’s statutory authority to investigate allegations of unprofessional conduct and was properly tailored to that purpose. View "Boland v. Colorado Medical Board" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming a decision by the West Virginia Board of Medicine that imposed professional discipline upon Dr. Omar Hasan, including a one-year suspension of his medical license with the requirement that he petition for reinstatement, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's order affirming the final order of the Board. On appeal, Hasan argued that the Board erred by failing to adopt recommended findings of fact by its hearing examiner, by misstating various facts in its final order, and by improperly considering the content of certain text messages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board has the authority to amend findings of fact recommended by its hearing examiner so long as it provides a reasoned, articulate decision that explains the rationale for its changes, and the Board provided such a rationale in this case; (2) the Board did not err in considering the challenged text messages; and (3) the Board did not commit reversible error by misstating certain evidence. View "Hasan v. West Virginia Board of Medicine" on Justia Law

by
In this medical malpractice action the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Defendant and finding that Defendant did not have a duty to provide follow-up medical care after Plaintiff left Raleigh General Hospital against medical advice, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment to Defendant. The day after Defendant performed surgery on Plaintiff, Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice (AMA). Plaintiff was later diagnosed with an infection resulting from the fact that the temporary stents she received in her surgery had never been removed. Plaintiff sued. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant, determining that the patient-doctor relationship between the parties ended the day that Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendant had a duty to provide medical care to her after she terminated their physician-patient relationship; and (2) in discontinuing the physician-patient relationship she had with Defendant when she left the hospital AMA, Plaintiff removed herself from the class of individuals sought to be protected by the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act, W. Va. Code 55-7B-1 to -12. View "Kruse v. Farid" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of plaintiff's petition for writ of mandate seeking an order directing the Association to complete plaintiff's administrative proceeding. Plaintiff, a physician whose clinical privileges were terminated by the Association, was denied an administrative hearing because the Association believed that he had withdrawn or abandoned his right to the hearing through his communications and conduct, and by filing an unsuccessful action in superior court. The court held that the Association misinterpreted the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies. The court clarified that the doctrine precludes premature lawsuits, but it did not mean that filing a premature lawsuit necessarily waives an administrative remedy. The court also held that substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that plaintiff did not withdraw his administrative appeal. Finally, the trial court did not misapply the burden of proof on the Association to show that plaintiff abandoned or withdrew his appeal, rather than requiring plaintiff to prove that the Association failed to fulfill a legal duty in proceeding with the appeal. View "Stafford v. Attending Staff Association of LAC + USC Medical Center" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order compelling the production of defendant's patients' medical records to the Medical Board of California. The court held that, when the Board seeks psychiatric records, it must demonstrate a compelling interest to overcome a patient's right to privacy, and the Board made a sufficient factual showing of good cause to compel compliance with the subpoenas. In this case, the Board established the absence of less intrusive alternatives, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting and relying on the declaration of the Board's medical consultant; and the consultant's declaration provided the trial court with sufficient competent evidence of good cause. Finally, the court denied defendant's motion for judicial notice of printouts of webpages from the Prescribers' Digital Reference and the Mayo Clinic website, which provide drug summaries for clonazepam. View "Grafilo v. Soorani" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's medical malpractice claims against Defendants, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Plaintiff, through a conservator, sued Defendants for negligent acts or omissions that occurred during Plaintiff's birth. During the birth, Plaintiff's shoulder became stuck on his mother's pelvis, and while Defendants performed maneuvers to resolve the stuck shoulder, Plaintiff was born with a permanent injury preventing normal use and function of his left arm. Based upon the jury's verdict, the district court entered an order dismissing Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not commit reversible error in the specifications of negligence it submitted to the jury; (2) Plaintiff was properly prevented from introducing continuing medical education (CME) records to show a breach in the standard of care; (3) the district court abused its discretion by prohibiting the use of CME records as impeachment evidence, but the error was harmless; (4) Defendants’ expert opinion testimony was properly disclosed and did not reflect an opinion in anticipation of litigation; and (5) the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the jury’s access to video evidence during deliberation. View "Eisenhauer v. Henry County Health Center" on Justia Law