Patient Who Had Stroke after Being Sent Home by Massachusetts Physician Made Adequate Offer of Proof to Malpractice Tribunal – Washington v. Cranmer

In the case of Washington v. Cranmer, the plaintiff was a woman who sought medical care in the emergency department of a hospital, complaining of various symptoms including body weakness, left arm weakness, difficulty with balance, increased blood sugars, dizziness, and blurry vision. Despite being only 37 years old, the patient’s medical history included diabetes, chronic hypertension, high cholesterol, and a previous stroke.

The defendant was a doctor who examined, treated, and discharged the patient. After the patient returned to her home, she suffered a stroke. In her medical malpractice complaint against the doctor, the plaintiff alleged that the doctor failed to comply with the applicable standard of care and that the resulting stroke left the patient with permanent neurological damage.

The matter was referred to a medical malpractice tribunal pursuant to Mass. Gen. Law ch. 231, § 60B. After a hearing, the tribunal concluded that the patient’s offer of proof failed to raise a legitimate question of liability appropriate for judicial inquiry. Since the patient did not post the $6,000 bond required by the statute, her action was dismissed by the trial court.

What Happened in the Appellate Court

On appeal, the court reversed, holding that the patient’s offer of proof was adequate. The court noted that a plaintiff’s offer of proof before a medical malpractice tribunal must include a showing that the defendant did not conform to good medical practice via expert opinion rooted in the evidentiary record and not based on speculation or conjecture. In reviewing the evidence presented by the plaintiff in a malpractice action, the medical malpractice tribunal is not charged with determining the weight or the credibility of the evidence offered by the plaintiff, but rather must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. An offer of proof should be found sufficient if a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the plaintiff.

The court concluded that the patient had met her initial burden of raising a legitimate question of liability appropriate for judicial inquiry as required by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 60B. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment of dismissal. In so holding, the court noted that the doctor may be able to show at trial that she acted reasonably under the  circumstances presented by the case, but the court reiterated that such a determination could not be made on the current record without straying into the inappropriate role of weighing the evidence.

To Seek an Attorney’s Advice in Your Malpractice Case

If you believe that you have suffered an injury due to a health care provider’s act of medical malpractice, the Law Firm of John C. Manoog, III is here to help. Phone us at (888) 262-6664 to schedule an appointment to discuss your case. We understand the rules, regulations, and procedures unique to malpractice cases, and we will work hard for you as we pursue a fair and adequate settlement or judgment compensating you for  your injuries. We are currently accepting cases in the Cape Cod area, including Hyannis and Plymouth.

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Getting a Medical Malpractice Case Through Massachusetts’ §60B Tribunal Requirement — Bodden v. Nicholson

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