Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Action Fails Due to Insufficient Proof, Says Massachusetts Appeals Court

Medical malpractice lawsuits are expensive and procedurally difficult. This is not to say that a plaintiff cannot be successful in an attempt to hold a negligent doctor liable in a particular case, but only that doing so can be much more difficult than, for example, holding a negligent driver liable in a motor vehicle accident case.

One of the main reasons for the difficulty in pursuing a medical malpractice case is the requirement for expert proof as to the medial professional’s deviation from the standard of care.  Just as medical care itself is costly, so, too, is hiring a medical expert to testify as to a mistake made in the plaintiff’s treatment.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unreported case decided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiff was a man who brought a medical malpractice action against the defendant outpatient addiction treatment center. According to the plaintiff, the defendant’s alleged malpractice occurred when it did not “properly treat his complaints of pain.” Along with his complaint, the plaintiff filed an affidavit of indigency, in which he sought a waiver of the filing fee and funds for the retention of an expert witness.

The plaintiff’s request for assistance with funds for an expert was effectively denied, and a medical malpractice tribunal was convened. The tribunal determined that the plaintiff’s offer of proof, which consisted only of two handwritten pages restating the plaintiff’s allegations, was insufficient. The plaintiff was unable to pay even a reduced bond, and his complaint was dismissed by the trial court.

Decision of the Court

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s medical malpractice complaint. According to the court, the plaintiff’s appeal was fraught with procedural deficiencies that were fatal to his case. First, he did not attach copies of the “most essential parts of the record” to his appeal; without such documents as the offer of proof that the plaintiff submitted to the tribunal and a transcript of the hearing before the tribunal, the appellate court had to affirm the lower court’s ruling.

In addition, the court found that, without an expert’s opinion that the defendant deviated from the standard of care, it was proper for the tribunal to find that the plaintiff had failed to raise a legitimate question of liability. With regard to the plaintiff’s request for monetary assistance in paying for an expert witness, the court found that his “bare request,” which did not offer any explanation or justification of his need for funds, was insufficient and that, in any event, the plaintiff had waived consideration of the issue on appeal because he had failed to avail himself of an appeal to a single justice of the appeals court per Massachusetts Gen. Laws ch. 261, § 27D.

Speak to a Lawyer About Your Cape Cod Injury Case

Seeking reasonable compensation for injuries suffered due to medical negligence can be a difficult process. If you believe that you or a loved one has been hurt because of a mistake by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III will be happy to talk to you about the process of holding the responsible party accountable. Call us at 888-262-6664 for a free consultation in our Plymouth or Hyannis offices.

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