Massachusetts Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Case

If you or someone in your family has suffered harm at the hands of a medical professional, such as a doctor or nurse, you should know your legal rights – and your obligations at trial. It is important to note that the plaintiff has the burden of proof in a medical negligence case, meaning that he or she has to provide proof of each element of the case sufficient to convince the jury beyond a preponderance of the evidence.

Seeking fair compensation in a Massachusetts medical malpractice lawsuit can be a complex task. As compared to a traditional tort case arising from, for instance, an auto accident, a medical negligence case may trigger more demanding procedural requirements, including the posting of a bond in some instances. As with other types of litigation, a person who believes that they may have a cause of action against a health care worker for medical malpractice should seek counsel as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) case, the plaintiff was a man who sued the defendant hospital, averring that he had been the victim of an act of medical negligence. Apparently, the plaintiff did not have an attorney, either at trial or on appeal. This put him at a serious disadvantage, making it exceptionally difficult to win his case. He began his appeal by complaining to the court of appeals that the trial court had been error in declining to appoint counsel to represent him as he pursed monetary compensation against the defendant hospital. He also argued that the trial court should have reduced the amount of the bond required by Massachusetts General Laws ch. 231, § 60B. (His failure to post the required bond resulted in dismissal of his case.)

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower tribunal’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case. The court began by stating that the plaintiff had no legal right to have an attorney appointed for him to represent him with regard to his medical malpractice claim against the hospital. Because only a property interest – not the possibility of loss of liberty through incarceration, as would be the case in a criminal case – was at stake, the plaintiff had the responsibility of hiring his own attorney. Thus, the trial court had no obligation to appoint counsel to represent the plaintiff.

The appellate court also declined to reverse the trial court’s dismissal based on its refusal to reduce the statutory bond required in a medical malpractice case when the reviewing tribunal does not find that the plaintiff has sufficient evidence to proceed. Massachusetts law gave the plaintiff only seven days to appeal that order, but he waited almost two months before filing a petition with a single judge of the appellate court. Not only was this action untimely, it was also improper (the correct procedure would have been to filed a notice of appeal).

Do You Need Legal Advice from an Experienced Cape Cod Injury Attorney?

It doesn’t make sense to go it alone in a complicated, difficult case like a medical negligence lawsuit. It takes attorneys several years to complete their legal education, and they must keep up to breast of developing legal matters through annual continuing education. A layman cannot be expected to know all of the rules, laws, and procedures that are required in order to prove that a defendant medical professional breached the standard of care in a particular case. If you have been hurt by a doctor or hospital and need to speak to a knowledgeable Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at 888-262-6664. We have offices in both Hyannis and Plymouth.

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