Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

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Jill, age 42, died two days after seeking treatment at Mercy’s emergency department. A postmortem examination by the medical examiner indicated that Jill died from myocarditis resulting from sepsis; Jill’s blood cultures showed that MRSA bacteria was present in Jill’s blood. At the request of Jill’s family, Bryant performed a second autopsy and concluded that Jill’s cause of death was acute and chronic congestive heart failure due to dilated cardiomyopathy. Bryant’s report did not indicate that Jill had myocarditis or sepsis. Her estate sued for wrongful death and medical negligence, arguing that Jill died of toxic shock syndrome and sepsis caused by a retained tampon, which could have been treated by antibiotics if timely diagnosed. A jury returned a verdict in favor of all defendants.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting an argument that the circuit court abused its discretion and denied the plaintiff a fair trial by refusing to issue a nonpattern jury instruction on the loss of chance doctrine and a pattern jury instruction on informed consent. When a jury is instructed on proximate cause through a pattern jury instruction, the lost chance doctrine, as a form of proximate cause, is encompassed within that instruction. The plaintiff never alleged that Jill consented to medical treatment without being adequately informed and that the treatment injured her. The plaintiff’s proposed jury instruction did not identify any treatment Jill received or any injury she received from that treatment. View "Bailey v. Mercy Hospital and Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Ittersagen brought a medical malpractice action against Advocate Medical and Dr. Thakadiyil, alleging that the defendants negligently failed to diagnose him with sepsis and treat him appropriately. A jury was sworn. More than halfway through the trial, the court received a note from a juror, who reported that he had a business relationship with “the Advocate Health Care System Endowment.” The juror, a partner in a company that handles investments, said he believed the endowment was affiliated with but separate from Advocate Medical. He explained that his connection to Advocate Medical was so attenuated that he forgot to mention it during jury selection. The juror insisted that the outcome of the trial would not affect him financially and that he could remain fair and impartial. The trial court denied Ittersagen’s request to remove the juror for actual bias or implied bias and to replace him with an alternate juror. The jury returned a verdict for the defendants.The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting an argument that the juror’s business relationship with the endowment created a presumption of bias that cannot be rebutted by claims of impartiality. The court noted the lack of evidence of the affiliation between the endowment and Advocate. The juror did not owe Advocate a fiduciary duty and did not have any other direct relationship with the defendants that would create a presumption of juror bias as a matter of law. View "Ittersagen v. Advocate Health and Hospitals Corp." on Justia Law

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Vargas received extensive medical care from the Veterans Administration. In his suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2671–80, he argued that a VA nurse was negligent in failing to order additional tests after receiving the results of urinalysis in October 2015. More testing, Vargas contended, would have revealed that he suffered from a urinary tract infection; failure to diagnose that infection led to a heart attack, which led to extended hospitalization, which led to pain and inflammation.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of his claims, upholding the district judge’s decision to allow testimony from a board-certified urologist. Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert evidence in suits under the FTCA. The district judge was entitled to consider the urologist’s view that the applicable standard of care did not require follow-up testing to look for a urinary tract infection. If even a board-certified urologist would not have seen anything in the test result calling for further lab work, then a nurse practitioner’s identical decision cannot be negligent. Illinois does not hold nurses to the higher standard of specialists. View "Love v. United States" on Justia Law

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Letgolts and Plattner (plaintiffs) remodeled their home in 2008. The contractor, Pinchevskiy, did some demolition and then walked away, causing extensive damage to the home. The plaintiffs retained attorney Marks, who sued Pinchevskiy, the plaintiffs’ home insurer, and their insurance agent who allegedly inaccurately advised the plaintiffs that their existing homeowners' policy would cover possible property damage by Pinchevskiy. The complaint detailed property damage but did not mention personal injury. Marks withdrew from the case in 2012. The plaintiffs retained Pierce, who secured a default judgment against Pinchevskiy in 2015; his insurer, National, filed for liquidation before Pierce could collect on the judgment. Pinchevskiy was bankrupt.The plaintiffs sued Pierce for negligent delay in seeking recovery from National. Pierce’s lawyers argued the plaintiffs could never have prevailed against National because Pinchevskiy’s policy did not cover construction defects. The court entered judgment for Pierce. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting the plaintiffs’ attempt to assert a personal injury claim based on Plattner’s alleged 2008 fall from temporary stairs installed by Pinchevskiy. National’s policy did cover personal injuries but the tardy, uncorroborated claim was at odds with the detailed lists of problems given to the insurer years before. Pursuing insurance money from National was a lost cause from the start, so whether Pierce committed malpractice did not matter, View "Letgolts v. David H. Pierce & Associates PC" on Justia Law

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Mitchell swallowed 60 Naproxen tablets. With her husband, she arrived at the Hospital emergency department on May 27, 2017, alert, oriented, and with no acute distress. The physician noted no motor deficits or sensory deficits. A nurse placed an IV catheter in Mitchell’s forearm. Nearly two hours later, Mitchell walked to the toilet with assistance from her husband, then walked back to her bed without assistance. On the way back, Mitchell fell, causing abrasions to her face and severely injuring her knee. The nursing staff had no reason to suspect Mitchell presented a high fall risk because she did not complain of dizziness; they had no observed balance problems. An x-ray and CT scan of Mitchell’s knee showed serious injuries. Mitchell was referred to physical therapy and was discharged from Hospital.Mitchell filed her complaint, alleging general negligence and premises liability on May 17, 2019. The hospital argued that the complaint alleged professional negligence, rather than general negligence or premises liability, and was barred under Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5’s one-year limitations period. Mitchell acknowledged that the condition of the floor did not contribute to her fall. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. The nursing staff’s decision to not assist Mitchell in walking to the restroom was “integrally related” to her medical care. View "Mitchell v. Los Robles Regional Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's judgment in favor of Defendants in this suit against healthcare providers seeking damages for alleged breach of duties, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff sued Baptist Healthcare System, Inc., Apogee Medical Group Kentucky, PSC and Subhose Bathing, M.D. alleging that Defendants breached their standards of care for by prescribing two antibiotics known to be linked to arrhythmias and cardiac arrest when taken by patients with low potassium. After a trial, the jury found that neither defendant had breached their standard of care. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Plaintiff claimed eight errors in the proceedings below. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no prejudicial error in this case. View "Kentucky Guardianship Administrators, LLC v. Baptist Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court reversing the Iowa Board of Medicine declaratory order interpreting Iowa Code 272C.6(4)(a) as allowing the Board to publish statements of charges and press releases containing investigative information, holding that the district court did not err.The Board filed a statement of charges against Dr. Domenico Calcaterra accusing him of a "pattern of disruptive behavior and/or unethical or unprofessional conduct" and published the statement of charges against Dr. Calcaterra, along with a press release, on the Board's website. Several years after the parties reached a settlement, information about the allegations against Dr. Calcaterra remained available on the Board's website. Dr. Calcaterra filed a petition for declaratory order with the Board challenging that Board's ongoing dissemination of investigative information. The Board denied the challenge. The district court set aside the Board's order, holding that section 272.6(4)(a) prohibited the disclosure of the investigative information. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board incorrectly interpreted section 272C.6(4)(a) and that investigative information cannot be released to the public in a statement of charges or a press release when there has been no underlying final decision in the disciplinary proceeding. View "Calcaterra v. Iowa Board of Medicine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate panel affirming the decision of the trial court to deny Appellant's request to amend her complaint alleging negligence against numerous healthcare providers to allege a violation of 42 U.S.C. 1395dd, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), holding that EMTALA's statute of limitations did not preempt an amendment.Appellant's grandson killed her husband after receiving treatment for his mental illness and dangerous propensities. Appellant sued her grandson's healthcare providers, alleging that their negligent care and treatment of her grandson led to her husband's death. Appellant subsequent moved to amend her complaint under Indiana Trial Rule 15(C) to allege a violation of EMTALA, which has a two-year statute of limitations. The trial court denied the request, and an appellate penal affirmed, concluding that the statute of limitations preempted an amendment under Rule 15(C). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that EMTALA's statute of limitations did not preempt an amendment under Trial Rule 15(C). View "Miller v. Patel" on Justia Law

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Following a preliminary hearing, petitioner Dr. Sanjoy Banerjee was charged in an information with two counts of presenting a false or fraudulent health care claim to an insurer (a form of insurance fraud, counts 1-2), and three counts of perjury (counts 3-5). The superior court denied Banerjee’s motion to dismiss the information as unsupported by reasonable or probable cause. Banerjee petitioned for a writ of prohibition to direct the superior court to vacate its order denying his Penal Code section 995 motion and to issue an order setting aside the information. The Court of Appeal issued an order to show cause and an order staying further proceedings on the information, pending the Court's resolution of the merits of Banerjee’s petition. The State filed a return, and Banerjee filed a traverse. The State argued the evidence supported a strong suspicion that Banerjee committed two counts of insurance fraud and three counts of perjury, based on his violations of Labor Code section 139.3(a) between 2014 and 2016. During that period, Banerjee billed a workers’ compensation insurer for services he rendered to patients through his professional corporation and through two other legal entities he owned and controlled. The insurance fraud charges are based on Banerjee’s 2014-2016 billings to the insurer through the two other entities. The perjury charges were based on three instances in which Banerjee signed doctor’s reports, certifying under penalty of perjury that he had not violated “section 139.3.” Banerjee argued: (1) the evidence showed he did not violate the statute's referral prohibition; (2) even if he did not comply with section 139.3(e), the “physician’s office” exception to the referral prohibition applied to all of his referrals to his two other legal entities; and (3) the patient disclosure requirement of section 139.3(e), the referral prohibition of section 139.3(a), and the physician’s office exception to the referral prohibition were unconstitutionally vague. The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) Banerjee did not violate section 139.3(a) by referring his patients to his two other legal entities; and (2) the evidence supported a strong suspicion that Banerjee specifically intended to present false and fraudulent claims for health care benefits, in violation of Penal Code section 550(a)(6), by billing the workers’ compensation insurer substantially higher amounts through his two other legal entities than he previously and customarily billed the insurer for the same services he formerly rendered through his professional corporation and his former group practice. Thus, the Court granted the writ as to the perjury charges but denied it as to the insurance fraud charges. View "Banerjee v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this matter challenging the superior court's judgment affirming a decision of the Board of Dental Practice sanctioning Appellant, a licensed dentist in Maine, for unprofessional conduct for her failure to timely provide patient medical records, holding that the Board's findings of fact were insufficient to permit judicial review.An attorney who represented one of Appellant's patients sent a request to Appellant for the patient's medical records. When the request was refused, the attorney filed a complaint with the Board. The Board found that Appellant had engaged in unprofessional conduct, thereby violating Me. Rev. Stat. 18325(1)(E), and sanctioned Appellant. The superior court upheld the Board's decision. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court's judgment and remanded the matter, holding that the Board did not make sufficient factual findings, precluding review. View "Narowetz v. Board of Dental Practice" on Justia Law