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Medical Malpractice & Burden of Proof

The medical malpractice lawsuit filed by the family of a young woman who suffered brain damage while receiving out-patient hospital care was almost over as soon as it began.

Defense attorneys in the case of Milliun v. New Milford Hosp. had argued – successfully at first – that the plaintiffs had failed to produce the kind of expert witness testimony and evidence that would have adequately proven a causal link between the hospital’s treatment and the patient’s death. The trial court rendered a summary judgment in favor of the defendant, finding that the plaintiff failed to offer the requisite expert testimony that would be required. The appellate court, however reversed on the grounds that the trial court failed to admit certain medical records from treating doctors as evidence from experts of opinion on causation. The Connecticut State Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s ruling.

Similar to the underlying principal in the Miliun case,Lauderhill medical malpractice attorneys know that, perFlorida Statute 766.102 any person claiming negligence of a health care provider has the burden of proof. The plaintiff has to show that the prevailing professional standard of care for any given health care provider was breached. This means showing that the injury was not within the reasonably foreseeable or necessary results of any given medical procedure. In order to reach that burden of proof, expert medical testimony will be required.

The specific criteria for who qualifies as an expert witness in Florida medical malpractice claims is spelled out in detail in the aforementioned statute. The exact qualifications depend on the person or entity being sued. If, for example, the defendant is a general practitioner, an expert witness against him or her has to have at least five years of professional experience in a similar specialty in an active clinical practice or in consultation or in a teaching position at an accredited health professional school.

In the Connecticut case, the patient suffered from a condition called “stiff man” disease. This is disabling neurological disorder characterized by muscle rigidity and painful spasms. While in the hospital’s care for this condition, the patient suffered respiratory dysfunction. During this time, she drew just two breaths a minute for up to four minutes at a time. This lack of oxygen, the plaintiffs allege, resulted in severe injury to her cognitive function, including speech impairment, memory loss and motor function. The plaintiff claimed that the brain injury was a result of the hospital’s negligence because staffers did not properly treat or monitor her after giving her a medication known to cause respiratory dysfunction.

She was subsequently treated by a number of physicians, several of whom noted in her chart that it was their belief her cognitive dysfunction was caused by the incident at the hospital involving a lack of oxygen.

After the woman’s caregivers file the negligence action, many of those same doctors refused to attend depositions because of the hospital’s internal policy against participation in such action. As such, defense attorneys contended, the medical records themselves should be excluded.

The trial court refused to admit these records because it deemed them to be hearsay because the incident was reported to the doctors by the plaintiff.

However, upon appeal, the appellate court determined that the physicians’ reports were not the sole reflection of the patient’s reporting of what happened, but rather the result of comprehensive testing of her cognitive function and the investigative report from the state board regarding the incident. Thus, the detailed conclusions by these treating physicians in and of themselves were considered reliable as expert opinions on causation.

The case will be allowed to move forward.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Milliun v. New Milford Hosp., Dec. 13, 2013, Connecticut Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Robotic Surgery and Patient Risks in South Florida, Oct. 31, 2013, Lauderhill Injury Lawyer Blog

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