$32.5 Million Award in Medical Malpractice Case Upheld by Massachusetts Appeals Court

Modern medicine is a complicated endeavor in which an individual may see several different medical providers for various conditions. Unless these providers are able to communicate effectively with one another for the patient’s benefit, tragedy can result.A recent Massachusetts medical malpractice case arose from just such a situation. In the case, a former teacher and marathon runner incurred permanent injuries that will require around-the-clock care for the rest of her life – all because a doctor failed to note an MRI report properly on her medical chart.

Facts of the Case

In a medical malpractice case recently reviewed by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiff was a woman who suffered severe complications (including a month-long coma and permanent paralysis in her legs and left hand) during childbirth, as an alleged result of her primary care physician’s failure to note a “venous varix” medical condition (which is similar to an aneurysm) on her medical chart. At trial, the plaintiff argued that the complications could have been avoided had her obstetrician known of her medical condition and performed a C-section rather than using the Valsava maneuver during vaginal labor.

The plaintiff settled her case against the physician, and the case proceeded to trial against the physician’s employer. The jury found in the plaintiff’s favor and awarded the plaintiff $35.4 million. The trial court judge reduced this amount to $32.5 million but otherwise denied the defendant’s numerous post-trial motions.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The defendant argued on appeal that the trial court should have allowed it to amend its pleadings to claim charitable status (thus capping damages at $20,000), but the appeals court disagreed. In Massachusetts, charitable status is considered an affirmative defense that must be pleaded in a defendant’s answer. Here, the defendant did not raise the issue until “more than four years of litigation and two weeks of trial” had taken place. The court also rejected the defendant’s contention that the plaintiff had either expressly or impliedly consented to try the issue of the defendant’s status at trial. Thus, the court of appeals agreed with the lower court that the defendant had effectively waived the statutory limitation on liability.

The defendant also argued on appeal that the plaintiff had acted inappropriately with regard to an alleged contingency fee arrangement with an expert witness, but the court of appeals pointed out that the arrangement – if one existed – was with a consulting service that locates medical experts, instead of with the actual expert. Although some states frown on this type of arrangement, other states allow it, and there is no governing rule one way or the other in Massachusetts.

Discuss a Possible Medical Malpractice Case with a Cape Cod Attorney

As this case shows, a doctor’s mistake can be very costly for a patient and his or her family. If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical negligence, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. These types of cases take considerable time, skill, and funding to get to trial, so it is important that there be as little delay as possible in seeking counsel. For an appointment with an experienced Cape Cod medical malpractice attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at 888-262-6664 today.

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