Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

In a recent opinion, the California Court of Appeal addressed a case involving medical malpractice and the plaintiff’s allegations that she was prejudiced by the trial court’s instruction on comparative negligence.  The appellate court stated that the test for reversing a judgment on appeal is whether the error caused a miscarriage of justice.  Here, the court looked at the jury’s  unanimous decision concerning the defendant’s alleged negligence, and it affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

Debra Groves filed a lawsuit against Hakob G. Davtyan, M.D. and other defendants, alleging negligence and other causes of action stemming from her February 16, 2010 surgery and subsequent care. The defendants other than Dr. Davtyan settled or were dismissed from the case.

At trial, the jury was instructed on Ms. Groves’ claim against Dr. Davtyan for medical negligence, The court also instructed the jury about a modified version of comparative negligence and apportionment of responsibility.  They were informed certain individuals were no longer parties to the case and then asked, in another instruction, to apportion responsibility if people other than Dr. Davtyan were also negligent.  In returning their special verdict in favor of Dr. Davtyan, the jury answered that Dr. Davtyan was not negligent in his care and treatment of Ms. Groves. They were instructed not to answer Question 3 (comparative negligence), since they answered “no” to Question No. 2.

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Recently, the California Supreme Court addressed the statute of limitations for a personal injury action alleging professional negligence against health care providers.  Unlike most personal injury actions, which must be filed within two years of the date of the underlying act or omission, professional negligence actions must be brought within three years after the date of the injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers the injury, whichever is first.  In the case before the Supreme Court, the issue was whether the special limitations governed the plaintiff’s claims against a hospital. On March 5, 2009, plaintiff Catherine Flores, a patient at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (PIH) in Whittier, suffered injuries when one of the rails on her hospital bed collapsed.  She was trying to get up from her hospital bed, and as the rail collapsed, she fell to the floor.  Her doctor had ordered the rail to be up after conducting an assessment of her medical conditions.  Ms. Flores sued the hospital for negligently failing to inspect and maintain the equipment. Her claim was filed just under two years after the date of the underlying incident, March 2, 2011.

PIH demurred to the complaint, arguing that the complaint was governed by California Civil Procedure Code section 340.5 for lawsuits alleging professional negligence and was therefore untimely.  Ms. Flores contended that PIH’s negligence was ordinary, not professional. She claimed her complaint was subject to the standard two-year limitations period for personal injury actions. The trial court agreed with PIH and sustained the demurrer.

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In a wrongful death lawsuit, the California Court of Appeals addressed the standard of care applicable to medical staff, including physicians and surgeons as well as nurses and hospitals in general.

Yvonne Lattimore brought a wrongful death action against the doctors and the medical system at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (Salinas Valley Systems) for the care and treatment of her father, Albert Lattimore. Ms. Lattimore appeals the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

The issue on appeal is whether the trial court improperly granted the motion for summary judgment. Ms. Lattimore alleges she presented evidence opposing those motions and raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the treatment of her father violated the applicable standards of care.

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The California Court of Appeal recently held that the one-year statute of limitations is tolled when a payment is made for medical malpractice actions. Statutes of limitations determine the time period within which a legal claim is to be filed. After the specified period has passed, those legal claims cannot be filed.

In this case, Coastal Surgical Institute appealed from the jury’s verdict and entry of judgment in favor of Charles Blevins. The company alleges that it was error for the trial court to determine that Insurance Code section 11583 tolled the statute of limitations. They also argued that the trial court should not have denied their motion to bifurcate the jury trial on the affirmative defense of the statute of limitations, and that they should have instructed the jury on the issue of who was at fault.

The facts demonstrate that Mr. Blevins received knee surgery at Coastal Surgical Institute (Coastal). Mr. Blevins suffered a knee infection following the surgery, caused by a bacteria found on a sponge used to clean surgical equipment. Coastal paid Mr. Blevins for his medical expenses for treating the knee infection, totaling $4,118.23. Coastal acknowledges that at the time of the payment, Mr. Blevins was not represented by legal counsel, and Coastal did not provide written notice of the statute of limitations for bringing a medical malpractice action.

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A rollover car accident transformed into a medical malpractice action when a man seeking treatment for his injuries allegedly had a piece of glass left in his scalp over a period of several months.

In the case, Li v. Mojaddidi, Cal. Ct. App. (2015), the plaintiff was involved in a rollover car accident, as a result of which he suffered cuts to the left side of his body, face, and scalp. He was transported to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. A CT scan of the plaintiff’s brain was performed. A preliminary report regarding the scan stated that the plaintiff had a laceration to the scalp and an “embedded small foreign body.” While unknown at that time, the object was later determined to be a small piece of glass.

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In a recent medical malpractice case, Maher v. County of Alameda, 223 Cal. App. 4th 1340 (2014), the California Court of Appeals had before it the issue of what constitutes a foreign body for the purposes of tolling the relevant statute of limitations.

The plaintiff was treated by several healthcare professionals following a gunshot wound to the abdomen. The surgeons implanted a stent in the plaintiff during an emergency abdominal surgery. The plaintiff alleged that he was unaware of the stent’s placement until it was discovered and removed following treatment for abdominal pain many years later. The plaintiff sued the health care providers that had treated him for negligence, claiming that they failed to remove the stent within a certain period of time and failed to inform him of its placement or of the fact that it was designed to be temporary.

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In a recent Supreme Court of California decision, Rashidi v. Moser, 339 P. 3d 344, the court had before it a medical malpractice case involving three separate defendants:  a doctor, a hospital, and a medical product manufacturer.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff underwent surgery following a severe nosebleed. During the operation, his nasal artery was injected with molecules designed to block the bloodflow. However, when the plaintiff awoke, he was completely blind in one eye. Apparently, the molecules were so small that they had apparently floated into the incorrect area, causing the side effect.

The plaintiff sued the operating doctor and hospital for medical malpractice and related claims, and he sued the manufacturer of the particles for various products liability causes of action. The company settled with the plaintiff for $2 million, and the hospital settled for $350,000.

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In a recent California Court of Appeals opinion, Hoffman v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Cal. Ct. App (2014), the court decided the issue of the properness of the lower court’s decision to strike an expert witness declaration in a medical malpractice case, which accompanied a motion for summary judgment on behalf of the defendant.

The plaintiff filed an action for medical negligence against a doctor and the hospital where he worked, alleging that the doctor had performed a negligent hernia surgery. The plaintiff alleged that the health care services provided to him fell below the standard of care, allegedly causing him to suffer serious and permanent injury.

The doctor moved for summary judgment and provided a declaration by another doctor, who stated his opinion that the defendant doctor acted within the standard of care for the type of surgeon practicing in that geographic area, Southern California. His declaration reportedly further stated that “with a reasonable degree of medical probability, neither his acts nor omissions” led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

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In a very difficult to discuss fact scenario, Arroyo v. Plosay, 225 Cal. App. 4th 279 (2014), the California Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist., reached a decision regarding the disposition of a case that alleged wrongful death and medical malpractice in the treatment of a woman whom plaintiffs suspected had been wrongfully declared dead, and then somehow suffered injuries to her face.

The relevant complaint for the appeal claimed that the decedent was taken to the hospital (defendant), where she received treatment for cardiac arrest, acute myocardial infarction, and hypertension. Shortly thereafter, the decedent was pronounced dead by hospital employees. The family was then brought in to say their goodbyes before her body was taken to the morgue. When workers for the mortuary that the family had selected by came to pick up the body, they found the decedent lying facedown with a broken nose and facial lacerations and contusions. The injuries had not been present when she had been transported to the hospital, nor when the family saw the decedent after she had been declared dead. The mortuary informed the family of the injuries in the course of preparing the body for the funeral.

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