California Court of Appeals Issues Ruling in Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Case

The California Court of Appeal for the 2nd District, recently issued an instructive opinion on the area of medical malpractice wrongful death cases.

In the case, Tam v. Garfield Med. Ctr., Inc., Cal. Ct. App., 2nd Dist. (2014), the plaintiff’s father, Mr. Tam, was involved in a serious car accident and suffered severe injuries to his abdomen and shoulder. He was diagnosed in the emergency room department with peritonitis, hypotension, and fluid in the abdomen. Just before he was to undergo emergency surgery, he was given a dose of morphine, which caused his blood pressure to plummet, sending him into cardiac arrest. He then became unconscious and remained in a coma until surgery. After the surgery, he was sent to the intensive care unit to recover, but he remained in a deep coma and died shortly thereafter.

The initial complaint and main claim of professional negligence in the case was regarding the administration of the morphine to Mr. Tam. The purported negligent administration of morphine was the only allegation of negligence in the complaint.

The hospital in the case filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there had been no breach of the relevant standard of care, and that there was no relation from any act committed by any of the health care professionals to Mr. Tam’s death. In support of its motion, it submitted testimony from a nurse and a doctor, both stating their beliefs that there had been no breach in the relevant standard of care, and furthermore that the administration of morphine to the patient was not improper or negligent in this case. Instead, the doctor witness stated that the patient’s death was a result of the injuries he sustained in the car accident, including the fact that some 1/3 of his blood volume was in his abdominal cavity due to the injuries.

In opposition to the motion, the plaintiff did not submit any evidence regarding the propriety of administering the morphine, but rather seemingly argued an entirely different point. Her expert witness submitted a statement regarding the standard of care on an entirely different matter.

Tam’s expert witness submitted a statement regarding the amount of time that lapsed between the patient being admitted to the emergency room until the emergency surgery was being performed, and that that may have fallen below the standard of care, thus presenting a potential claim for negligence.

The court found that a fair reading of the allegations in the complaint did not lead one to anticipate a claim of medical negligence based upon a delay in surgery, but rather focused exclusively on the issue of the administration of morphine. Furthermore, the plaintiff did not amend her complaint to include such a basis following the hospital’s motion for summary judgment. Therefore, the novel argument was not allowed, and the lower court’s decision to grant the motion for summary judgment in the defendant’s favor was granted.

Sharifi Firm, APC is an experienced personal injury law firm with offices throughout the state of California.  We have skillfully represented California wrongful death claimants for years, and we have earned a reputation for earning our clients the maximum in damages.  Call us today at 1-866-422-7222 for a free consultation with a wrongful death lawyer in California.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeal Sides with Target in Slip and Fall Ruling, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published March 3, 2015

California Court of Appeals Upholds Jury Decision in Low Speed Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 27, 2015

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