A covered entity’s victory over proposed penalties from the Department of Health and Human Services was good news for those responsible for HIPAA compliance, showing that good faith efforts and a willingness to fight the allegations can pay off.
The appellate court’s decision focused on whether the non-party status of the nurse who allegedly dropped plaintiff was determinative in the case at hand. The court of appeals found the trial court failed to exercise its full range of discretion and had not carefully considered the fact that although the nurse was not a party to the case, her conduct was the object of the case, and it was unclear whether the jury fully understood that she was not a party to the matter.
As often is the case in medical malpractice cases, defendants made a concerted effort to dismiss the case based on the insufficiency of the plaintiff’s expert report. Here, however, the court of appeals began its analysis by specifying that based on the applicable standard of review, the purpose of the plaintiffs’ expert report is to demonstrate the plaintiff is not filing a frivolous lawsuit.
A patient underwent gastric bypass surgery, but suffered permanent brain damage because of post-surgery complications and requires around-the-clock care for the rest of her life. The patient sued, alleging that the physician who performed the procedure failed to recognize that she was suffering from a severe thiamine and vitamin B1 deficiency, which led to her injuries. A jury awarded a $14.1 million verdict. The defendant physicians appealed, but the appellate court affirmed the verdict.
This case provides another example of how trial strategy and preparation is essential to the positive outcome of a case, with particular focus on the selection and retention of expert witnesses. Expert witnesses often can make or break a case, and that is true for either party in a medical malpractice action.
Although the parties disputed several essential facts in this case, one important, incontrovertible fact was the patient missed several follow-up appointments, failed to schedule tests recommended by the care providers, and thus contributed to her injuries. Physicians and care providers only have so much ability to compel patients to seek treatment.
This case revealed multiple important issues on appeal relevant to medical malpractice cases generally. These issues can be divided into three general groups: issues about causation, issues about periodic payment, and issues about the exclusion of witnesses.