Massachusetts Court of Appeals Vacates Medical Malpractice Tribunal’s Dismissal of Case

There are many steps that must be completed in order to recover fair monetary compensation for injuries or wrongful death at the hands of a health care professional in Massachusetts. One of the first hurdles that must be crossed is making it past the decision of the medical malpractice tribunal that reviews such cases as part of the legal process.

In order for a Cape Cod medical malpractice case to proceed past the tribunal and onward toward trial, there must be enough evidence of negligence by the defendants for the tribunal to find that there is a legitimate question of liability. Not every case “makes the cut,” so to speak. Sometimes, even though the patient was hurt or may even have died, there just isn’t enough evidence of wrongdoing by the doctor or other medical professional for the case to make it past the tribunal.

Of course, opinions can vary as to whether the threshold has been met. Sometimes, a plaintiff appeals a decision that would have terminated his or her case and finds legal recourse in the appellate process.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was the personal representative of a man who died while in the care of the defendant healthcare providers. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, asserting that the defendants had failed to conform to good medical practice in several ways and that, as a proximate result, the decedent had passed away. More particularly, the plaintiff claimed that the decedent should have been diagnosed with an ischemic bowel and treated accordingly; because of the defendants’ significant delay in diagnosing the decedent’s condition, the decedent had allegedly suffered a complete bowel infarction and, ultimately, had died from what should have been a treatable medical condition.

The medical malpractice tribunal concluded that the plaintiff’s offer of proof failed to present a triable issue of medical malpractice against the defendants. Accordingly, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s case. He appealed, seeking further review from the intermediate court of appeals.

Decision of the Court

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the lower court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s malpractice case against the defendant healthcare providers. In the reviewing court’s opinion, the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence, if properly substantiated as the case developed going forward, to raise a legitimate question of liability appropriate for judicial inquiry under Massachusetts law. Accordingly, the appellate court vacated the trial court’s order, directed that new findings be entered, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

In so holding, the court noted that several signs and symptoms of an acute bowel process had been documented by nurses, as well as by the defendants themselves, and disagreed with the defendants’ contention that the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert witness was speculative. Rather, in the court’s opinion, the records (if substantiated) showed a “classic course of worsening ischemic bowel” that was somehow missed by the defendants.

Call for an Appointment with a Cape Cod Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Proving that a doctor, nurse, or hospital has been negligent can be a lengthy process, as well as a hard-fought legal battle. If you believe that you or a loved one has been injured due to a medical provider’s mistake, you should seek legal advice right away. To schedule a free consultation with a helpful medical malpractice attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III at 888-262-6664. We represent those injured by acts of negligence and malpractice throughout the Cape Cod area, including Hyannis and Plymouth, and we look forward to advising you about your particular situation.

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