Massachusetts Appeals Court Affirms Medical Malpractice Verdict in Favor of Administratrix in Failure to Diagnose Case – Ellis v. Clarke

All personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits arising from negligence require proof of four essential elements. The defendant must have owed the plaintiff a duty, the defendant must have breached the duty, the plaintiff must have suffered damages, and the damages must have been the proximate result of the breached duty.

In some cases, particularly those arising from medical negligence, the plaintiff must provide expert testimony as to the issues of duty and breach of duty. It is up to the trial court judge to determine whether a particular expert relied upon by the plaintiff is qualified to testify on the issues at hand.

Facts of the Case

In the recent (unreported) case of Ellis v. Clarke, the plaintiff was the administratrix of the estate of a woman who died of lung cancer. The plaintiff brought a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant doctor. The case went to trial, and the jury found that the doctor was negligent in his care and treatment of the decedent and that this was a substantial contributing factor in the decedent’s death. The doctor filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial. Alternatively, he sought a remittitur in the damages award entered by the trial court. All of the doctor’s motions were denied, and he appealed.

What Happened on Appeal

The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the trial court’s entry of judgment in favor of the administratrix. Although the doctor argued that one of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses (a radiologist) should not have been accepted as an expert because he was not an emergency radiologist, the appellate court found that the trial court had not abused its discretion in admitting the testimony of the witness. The court noted that the expert in question was a diagnostic radiologist who had, throughout his career in vascular and interventional radiology, read and reported chest x-rays from emergency departments.

The court went on to hold that the doctor had waived the issue of whether the plaintiff had to produce evidence of a specific date by which the doctor should have made a correct diagnosis of the decedent and that, even if the issue had been properly preserved for appeal, it had no merit. Likewise, the court rejected the doctor’s argument that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s award of pain and suffering damages and found that the trial court did not err in admitting certain mortality tables into evidence, despite the decedent’s pre-existing health problems unrelated to lung cancer.

If You Believe You Have Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice

Health care providers make mistakes every day. Many are relatively benign, but some cost patients their lives. If you believe that you or a person close to you has been injured or suffered a wrongful death due to medical negligence, the experienced and knowledgeable Massachusetts medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III will be glad to discuss your concerns. Call us at (888) 262-6664 for an appointment. We represent injured people and families who have lost loved ones due to others’ negligence throughout Cape Cod, including in Hyannis, Plymouth, and the surrounding areas.

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