Category Archives: Medical Malpractice

A Significant Blow to Med-Mal Reform

Medical malpractice reform has been on virtually ever state’s legislative agenda for the past several years as a result of a concerted effort by the defense bar and public interest groups to insulate physicians from frivolous suits. In an effort to curb rising healthcare costs, a variety of legislation imposing prerequisites on medical malpractice suits has been passed by a number of states. Rather than simply imposing damages "caps," some states are getting creative with their reform legislation. However, a recent decision by a Florida federal judge dealt a major blow to those efforts.

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A-Rod: Not Going Down without a (Malpractice) Fight

Alex Rodriguez’s newest target is apparently the Yankees’ team physician. According to reports, A-Rod is exploring a potential malpractice suit against team doctors for “deliberately misdiagnosing” an injury that may have contributed to his woeful performance in 2012.

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Missed Diagnoses is #1 Cause of Medical Malpractice Claims

A recently released study demonstrates that most medical malpractice claims stem from missing serious illnesses and medical conditions. The international study specifically focused on claims asserted against primary care physicians because of their role as the first line of care for patients. The results of the study are noteworthy but not necessarily surprising.

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The Cost of an Apology: Pennsylvania Considers Apology Law

Malpractice is devastating. Professionals work tirelessly to earn a degree (or more), develop client relationships and trust, and subsequently a book of business all of which can be at risk in the event of professional negligence. The professional’s reaction may be to approach the client or patient with an apology, explanation or consolation but there are serious risks to doing so. Depending on the professional’s E&O policy, an apology may constitute a waiver of coverage. Moreover, that apology may be an admissible “confession” which can be introduced at trial. Pennsylvania legislators have considered this conundrum and introduced a bill that would preclude reference to a doctors’ apologies to patients during medical malpractice lawsuits. Practitioners believe this could greatly reduce the number of medical malpractice lawsuits in the state.

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The “Loss of Chance” Debate Continues

A recent decision provides hope for supporters of the “loss of chance” doctrine and further fuels the debate. Pursuant to this controversial doctrine, which has now been adopted in 23 states, a plaintiff may recover damages from a defendant due to a heightened risk of injury, even if the plaintiff cannot prove causation. The Minnesota Supreme Court recently joined those courts embracing the doctrine in the medical malpractice context. In its recent decision, the court permitted the parents of a seven-year-old girl afflicted by a rare form of cancer to pursue a medical malpractice recovery even though they could not prove that the defendant caused her condition. The suit has reignited an intense debate and has generated national attention.

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Wrongful Death Suit Questions Medical Treatment of Professional Athletes

Derek Boogaard was a professional hockey player known for his fists more than his skill with the puck. His unexpected death in 2011, and the recent lawsuit that followed, renews questions concerning the obligations of the physicians tasked with treating professional athletes. While publicity over this litigation trend is largely focused on the NFL’s safety precautions, this recent suit has ignited a firestorm of questions over the adequacy of medical care provided to all athletes and may open the door to increased liability.

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Dentist Facing Criminal Charges for Exposing Thousands to HIV

As if the fear of a dentist’s chair wasn’t already bad enough… The Tulsa Health Department recently warned thousands of patients of a local dentist that they may have contracted HIV, hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C due to poorly cleaned dental instruments. Of the 3,122 patients tested thus far, 57 tested positive for hepatitis C, three tested positive for hepatitis B, and at least one person tested positive for HIV according to recent reports. The cause? Dr. W. Scott Harrington allegedly re-used needles and used rusty instruments on patients with known infectious diseases, which could have put many at risk, according to a complaint filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry.

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When Negligence is a Crime: Part II

In a prior post, we discussed When Negligence = Murder and profiled a building defect dispute which resulted in the death of a firefighter. In a similar vein, a nurse’s refusal to perform CPR on a collapsed woman dying in a California independent living complex has launched a criminal investigation and sparks new concerns about protocols at independent living facilities. State officials in California are taking a close look at the nurse’s conduct and at retirement facility policies after a lengthy 911 call was released in which an emergency dispatcher is heard pleading with a facility nurse to provide CPR on the dying resident. The nurse’s refusal to attempt resuscitation has opened the door to inquiries about the facility’s protocol and about potential civil and/or criminal liability for failing to render adequate care.

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Colorado Shooter’s Psychiatrist Sued for Medical Malpractice

The widow of a man killed in last year’s mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado has filed a lawsuit against the alleged gunman’s psychiatrist claiming she knew of his threats to harm others and failed to warn of the imminent danger. Issue: When is a psychiatrist obligated to warn the public of her client’s threats to the public? Lesson: Threats of imminent harm cannot be taken lightly and preventive measures should be taken despite the application of doctor-patient confidentiality.

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Sleeping with the Enemy: When a Consensual Relationship = Medical Malpractice

New York’s high court recently concluded that a consensual relationship between a patient and her family doctor constituted medical malpractice. Issue: Whether a consensual sexual relationship between a married patient and her physician is grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Lesson: When possible, avoid sleeping with your clients.

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