State Appellate Court Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Medical Malpractice Case
The Court of Appeal of the State of California recently released a decision that reversed a lower court’s judgment favoring the defendant in a case alleging wrongful death as a result of medical malpractice after a man died from cardiac arrest while undergoing diagnostic evaluation for intestinal bleeding. The Court of Appeal’s ruling in the case of Lattimore v. Dickey rejected the lower court’s application of the legal standard for summary judgment as it applied to one of the three defendants that was sued based on the death of the plaintiff’s father. The judgments in favor of two other defendants were affirmed by the court, since they stood on different grounds.
The Death of the Plaintiff’s Father
The plaintiff’s father was 74 years old when he arrived at the defendant hospital complaining of abdominal pain. He had a history of chronic leukemia and other serious medical problems, and he was initially brought to the hospital for a routine blood transfusion, but he was admitted for a gastroenterological consultation after reporting his symptoms to the medical staff. Over the next two days, the plaintiff’s father had several diagnostic procedures that confirmed he was suffering from serious internal bleeding. The family was initially advised by the treating physician that the man would need a laparotomy surgery, but after consulting other doctors, he decided against the surgery and notified the family of his decision to instead continue diagnostic evaluation. The next morning, the man went into cardiac arrest. After resuscitating him twice, the family instructed the doctors not to take any more resuscitative measures. Later that evening, the man again went into cardiac arrest and died.
The Trial Court Grants the Defendants Summary Judgment
After the death of her father, the plaintiff hired a medical malpractice attorney and sued two treating doctors and the hospital for wrongful death. In the preliminary stages of the lawsuit, the defendants produced affidavits and expert testimony from surgery and gastroenterological specialists, stating that the treatment given to the plaintiff’s father met or exceeded the professional standard of care for the treatment of an individual in such a position.
The plaintiff produced an affidavit from the decedent’s primary physician, stating that the treating medical professionals did not meet the standard of care, and they should have performed surgery or other intervention procedures immediately upon being made aware of his critical blood-loss condition. The trial court ruled that the decedent’s primary physician was not competent to testify as to the standard of care for gastroenterological surgery and that the affidavits from the defendants’ qualified witnesses were sufficient to relieve all of the defendants of liability, and it entered judgment in their favor. The plaintiff appealed this ruling.
The Court of Appeal Disagrees with the Trial Court
The ruling on appeal clarified the requirements for a doctor to offer acceptable expert testimony that would prevent a case from being decided without a trial. The lower court erred when they ruled that the plaintiff’s father’s primary physician, who was board certified in “emergency medicine,” could not competently testify as to the standard of care when a patient is suffering from serious internal bleeding. The Court ruled that it is the place of the jury to determine which expert’s testimony is stronger or more reliable. The primary physician’s affidavit was sufficient to present an issue for trial, and the case should not have been decided in the defendant’s favor without a trial. As a result, the plaintiff will again have the opportunity to hold a defendant responsible for her father’s death.
Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, a qualified medical malpractice attorney can make the difference between recovering damages and having your case dismissed. The experienced legal team at Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt has a detailed knowledge of the law as it applies to our clients’ cases, and we make sure we do everything in our power to ensure that our clients will be fairly compensated before moving forward with a settlement or proceeding a case to trial. We have connections with qualified and accepted medical experts who can make a strong case for fair compensation. The Maryland malpractice attorneys at Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt represent victims of medical malpractice and negligence nationwide. Call us today at (410) 998-3600 or contact us online for a free consultation