Nursing Home Resident’s Complaint Seeking to Assert Seldom Used Equitable Remedy Reinstated by Massachusetts Appeals Court

In a typical Cape Cod personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff seeks to recover monetary compensation for damages by asserting a claim of negligence. There are four basic elements to the tort of negligence (duty, breach of duty, damages, and proximate causation).

The plaintiff has the duty to prove each element by a preponderance of the evidence. This requires him or her to convince the jury that the evidence weighs more in his or her favor than in the opponent’s (visualize a tipping of the scales of justice, if you will).

There are other possible remedies that can arise from an alleged act of negligence, including what was described by an appellate court as “a seldom used equitable remedy” in a case filed by a nursing home resident in 2018. The appellate court has now weighed in on the dismissal of the woman’s “complaint for discovery.”

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the original plaintiff was an elderly woman who had been a resident of the defendant assisted living center. In her complaint, which was filed in 2018, she sought discovery regarding an accident that had occurred on the defendant’s premises and had resulted in the original plaintiff breaking her foot and sustaining several contusions. She did not seek any damages, nor did she assert a traditional negligence claim in her complaint. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint without offering any explanation for its decision, and the plaintiff (actually, her personal representative, as the original plaintiff herself had died in the interim) sought review from the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

The defendant argued on appeal that the lower court’s decision should be affirmed, insomuch as the matter was moot because of the original plaintiff’s death and/or because any possible negligence claim that the original plaintiff could have asserted would be barred by the statute of limitations due to the passage of time.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The appellate court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint for discovery, concluding that the matter was not moot. In so holding, the court observed that, taking the plaintiff’s complaint as true, she had demonstrated that she suffered an actual injury while in the care of another, she sought to discover records of her own care, and she asserted that she needed the records to assess the viability of her potential claim against the defendant. Under these narrow circumstances, the court found that the appropriate action on appeal was to vacate the trial court’s judgment of dismissal and remand the case for further proceedings.

To Speak to a Personal Injury Lawyer

Cases involving personal injuries or wrongful death at the hands of a healthcare provider, including  a nursing home or hospital, have many technical requirements. In addition to the timely filing of a complaint for damages, there are many other considerations, including the retention of one (or several) expert witnesses who can review the patient’s medical records and give testimony at trial. If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered because of a medical practitioner’s negligence, please call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III and ask for a complimentary case evaluation. You can reach us at 888-262-6664 or through the contact portion of this website. Please be prompt in discussing your case with a qualified attorney; cases not filed within the time established by the statute of limitations are likely to be dismissed without due consideration of their merits.

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