Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Medical Malpractice
Joplin v. Cassin
In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court granting Plaintiff's motion for a new trial after the jury found that Defendant breached the duty of care owed to the patient in this case, holding that the trial justice erred by replacing the jury's determination with her own.After Patricia Kinney died from complications related to her battle with ovarian cancer, Plaintiff brought this action, asserting that Defendant negligently performed a surgical procedure and post-surgical follow-up. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on the issue of negligence and for Defendant on the issue of proximate cause. The trial justice granted Plaintiff's motion for a new trial, finding that the verdict was against the fair preponderance of the evidence and failed to do substantial justice. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that reasonable minds could have come to different conclusions on the question of whether Plaintiff had met her burden of establishing that Defendant's breach was the cause of Kinney's death. View "Joplin v. Cassin" on Justia Law
Cappuccilli v. Carcieri
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial after the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants in this medical malpractice action.Plaintiff’s claim against Defendants arose from an injury she alleged she suffered when she underwent an emergency cesarean section. The jury returned a verdict for Defendants. Plaintiff moved for a new trial. The trial justice denied the motion, concluding that reasonable minds could differ as to whether Plaintiff’s doctor’s conduct fell below the appropriate standard of care. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err in determining that reasonable minds could differ as to whether the doctor complied with the standard of care; and (2) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in his evidentiary rulings. View "Cappuccilli v. Carcieri" on Justia Law
Bartlett v. Coppe
The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Dr. David Coppe (Defendant) in this medical malpractice action. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant breached the standard of care for treatment of a cellulitis ulcer, which required right foot bone amputation. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Defendant after precluding Plaintiffs from relying on expert witness testimony in the case. The Supreme Court held (1) any challenge to the ruling precluding Plaintiffs’ proposed expert witness was waived; (2) Plaintiffs were permitted to argue the facts of their case, and the grant of summary judgment was not in error; and (3) there was no evidence that the hearing justice was biased against Plaintiffs. View "Bartlett v. Coppe" on Justia Law
Ribeiro v. Rhode Island Eye Inst.
Plaintiff brought this medical malpractice lawsuit against Defendants, his optometrist and his optometrist’s employer, arguing that his optometrist breach the duty of care to him because he failed to diagnose a detached retina, which resulted in permanent vision loss. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants, concluding that although the optometrist violated the standard of care in treating Defendant, that violation was not the cause of Plaintiff’s vision loss. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial justice erred by restricting the testimony of Plaintiff’s causation expert, and Plaintiff was entitled to a new trial on all issues. View "Ribeiro v. Rhode Island Eye Inst." on Justia Law
Ho-Rath v. Rhode Island Hospital
Plaintiffs initiated a medical malpractice suit against numerous medical organizations and professionals twelve years after their daughter, Yendee, was born with a genetic disorder. Plaintiffs alleged negligence in the diagnosis and treatment relating to Yendee’s genetic disorder and also asserted their own claims for loss of consortium. The superior court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding (1) Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the statute of limitations set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws 9-1-14.1; and (2) in light of Yendee’s status as a minor, the tolling provision in section 9-1-14.1(1) would allow Yendee to file suit in the future on her own behalf upon reaching the age of majority, but Yendee’s parents would not be permitted to attach their loss-of-consortium claims to Yendee’s future suit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under section 9-1-14.1(1), a minor’s parent or guardian may file suit on the minor’s behalf within three years of the occurrence or reasonable discovery of alleged malpractice, or the minor may file suit on her own behalf, but not until she reaches the age of majority; but (2) Plaintiffs’ claims may be asserted alongside Yendee’s claims if she elects to file suit upon reaching the age of majority. View "Ho-Rath v. Rhode Island Hospital" on Justia Law
Sherman v. Ejnes
Plaintiff filed a civil action against a physician and his employer alleging that Defendants negligently failed to protect the confidentiality of his HIV test results and seeking to recover both compensatory and exemplary damages. The superior court granted Defendant's motion to strike Plaintiff’s claims for exemplary damages and severed Plaintiff’s claim for exemplary damages without holding an evidentiary hearing pursuant to Palmisano v. Toth. The Supreme Court quashed the order of the superior court, holding that the hearing justice erred failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing in accordance with the Court’s holding in Palmisano on Plaintiff’s claim for exemplary damages. Remanded. View "Sherman v. Ejnes" on Justia Law
O’Connor v. Newport Hosp.
After Plaintiff underwent cervical disk replacement surgery at Rhode Island Hospital she suffered a stroke caused by a vertebral artery dissection. Dr. Gita Pensa at Newport Hospital treated Plaintiff when she first complained of pain due to the stroke, but Plaintiff was later discharged from the hospital. Plaintiff filed this medical malpractice action against Newport Hospital, Dr. Pensa, and NewPort Emergency Physicians, Inc. (collectively, Defendants), alleging negligence and lack of informed consent. After a three-week trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants, finding that Plaintiff had failed to prove that Dr. Pensa had breached the standard of care. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial justice’s erroneous admission into evidence of three documents during the voir dire of Plaintiff’s standard-of-care expert, combined with the questionable wording of one question on the jury verdict form, was sufficiently prejudicial to warrant a new trial. View "O’Connor v. Newport Hosp." on Justia Law
Laplante v. Rhode Island Hospital
Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint against Defendants, medical providers, alleging, inter alia, claims of medical malpractice and negligence. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice (1) did not overlook genuine disputes as to material facts that would preclude summary judgment; (2) did not err in finding that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur could not properly be applied to the facts of this case; and (3) did not err in granting summary judgment in light of what Defendant alleged was the “egregious conduct” of his former attorney. View "Laplante v. Rhode Island Hospital" on Justia Law
Ho-Rath v. R.I. Hosp.
Plaintiffs filed suit, individually and per proxima amici, against numerous defendants, alleging, inter alia, negligence, lack of informed consent, and vicarious liability for injuries sustained by their minor daughter, Yendee, who was born with a genetic blood disorder. Four groups of defendants filed motions to dismiss on the grounds that R.I. Gen. Laws 9-1-14.1(1), an act that tolls the three-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims when the person claiming injury is a minor, barred Plaintiffs’ claims. The trial justice entered judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that all of Plaintiffs’ claims were time-barred but that Yendee retained the right to bring suit on her own behalf when she reached the age of majority, and up to three years thereafter. After issuing an order to show cause, the Supreme Court (1) vacated the judgments entered in favor of defendants Corning Incorporated and Quest Diagnostics, LLC because Plaintiffs’ allegations against these defendants were not medical malpractice claims; and (2) directed that Plaintiffs’ appeal, as well as the appeals and cross-appeals of Rhode Island Hospital, Miriam Hospital, Women & Infants Hospital and each hospital’s associated medical professionals, be assigned to the Court’s regular calendar for further briefing and argument. View "Ho-Rath v. R.I. Hosp." on Justia Law
Oden v. Schwartz
Plaintiff underwent open-heart surgery at Hospital in January 2004. Dr. Singh performed the surgery, and Dr. Schwartz was the echocardiologist assisting with the surgery. Plaintiff was required to undergo a second open-heart surgery in August 2004 because of an errant suture stitched by Dr. Singh during Plaintiff's January surgery. While in recovery from his second surgery, Plaintiff suffered a cardiac arrest. Plaintiff brought a medical malpractice action against Hospital, Dr. Singh, and Dr. Schwartz. Plaintiff subsequently settled his claims against Hospital and Dr. Singh. Plaintiff proceeded to trial on his claims against Dr. Schwartz, and the trial court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not commit reversible error in (1) refusing to instruct the jury on intervening and superseding cause; (2) admitting certain testimony pertaining to Plaintiff's cardiac arrest following surgery in August; (3) denying Defendant's request for a remittutur and motion to vacate the damage award; and (4) instructing the jury on insurance. Additionally, the Court held that R.I. Gen. Laws 9-21-10(b), which mandates prejudgment interest at a rate of twelve percent in certain cases, is constitutional. View "Oden v. Schwartz" on Justia Law