MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

Somerset Legal Journal headnotes from approximately 1991 through the present.

For earlier cases, please visit the Somerset County Law Library.

 

EXPERTS

 

A plaintiff must also present an expert witness who will testify, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the acts of the physician deviated from good and acceptable medical standards, and that such deviation was the proximate cause of the harm suffered.  Davies v. Go, et al., 51 Som.L.J. 225 

 

The only exception to the general requirement that expert testimony must be produced is where the matter under investigation is so simple, and the lack of skill or want of care so obvious, as to be within the range of ordinary experience and comprehension of even non-professional persons.  Davies v. Go, et al., 51 Som.L.J. 225 

 

An expert witness' testimony at trial may not go beyond the fair scope of his testimony in the discovery proceedings.  Pa.R.C.P. 4003.5(c)  Davies v. Go, et al., 51 Som.L.J. 225 

 

HOSPITAL (CORPORATE) LIABILITY

 

The Commonwealth recognizes a theory of corporate liability with respect to hospitals.  Boyd v. Somerset Hospital et al., 52 Som.L.J. 174

 

The hospital's duties have been classified into four general areas: (1) a duty to use reasonable care in the maintenance of safe and adequate facilities and equipment;  (2) a duty to select and retain only competent physicians;  (3) a duty to oversee all persons who practice medicine within its walls as to patient care; and (4) a duty to formulate, adopt and enforce adequate rules and policies to ensure quality care for the patients.  Boyd v. Somerset Hospital et al., 52 Som.L.J. 174 

 

INFORMED CONSENT

 

A cause of action for failure to obtain informed consent may lie against a hospital if it assumed and independent duty to obtain a patient's informed consent.  Boyd v. Somerset Hospital et al., 52 Som.L.J. 174; Colflesh v. William Go, Jr., M.D. & Somerset Hospital, 56 Som.L.J. 253 

 

Defendant's motion to strike a paragraph of the Plaintiffs' complaint will be granted where Defendant argues that Pennsylvania law does not recognize a claim for lack of informed consent founded on a physician's representations regarding experience or expertise.  Wissinger vs. Furigay, M.D. and Windber Hospital, 61 Som.L.J. 158 (2002) (Fike, II, P.J.)

 

MCARE Act – PUNITIVE DAMAGES

 

The Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act recognizes that punitive damages may be imposed against "health care providers" for willful or wanton conduct or reckless indifference to the rights of others. Miller v. Beverly Enterprises, Inc., 63 Som.L.J. 382 (2007)(Klementik, J.).  

Punitive damages are not awarded for mere inadvertence, mistake, errors of judgment, and the like, which constitute ordinary negligence. It is incumbent on the plaintiff to plead facts amounting to outrageous conduct, i.e., reckless indifference to the interest of others or wanton misconduct on the part of the defendant, in order to support a claim for punitive damages. Miller v. Beverly Enterprises, Inc., 63 Som.L.J. 382 (2007)(Klementik, J.).  

 

Where the Plaintiff has plead more than the “magic words” associated with punitive damages by averring sufficient facts and allegations that the Defendants, in an attempt to maximize profits, acted with reckless disregard for the health and safety of its nursing home residents, we cannot conclude, as a matter of law, that the Defendants did not act with a level of care such that punitive damages may be awarded. Miller v. Beverly Enterprises, Inc., 63 Som.L.J. 382 (2007)(Klementik, J.).  

 

PRIMA FACIE ELEMENTS

 

In order to establish a prima facie case of malpractice, the plaintiff must establish (1) a duty owed by the physician to the patient, (2) a breach of duty from the physician to the patient, (3) that the breach of duty was the proximate case of, or a substantial factor in, bringing about the harm suffered by the patient, and (4) damages suffered by the patient that were a direct result of that harm.  Davies v. Go, et al., 51 Som.L.J. 225 

 

SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY – MEDICAL PROFESSION LIABILITY EXCEPTION

 

The cause of action does not fall within the medical professional liability exception 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8522 (b) (2) where the act of negligence asserted involves the inspection, maintenance, upkeep, repair, and safety of prison infirmary's x-ray table.  This type of negligence is not the type of action envisioned by the medical professional liability exception.  Cook v. Emergency Medical Services Assoc., et al., 60 Som.L.J. 154 (2001) (Fike, P.J.). 

 

Where the negligence asserted against the Department of Corrections involves the inspection, maintenance, upkeep, repair, and safety of a prison infirmary's x-ray table, the claimed act of negligence falls within the parameters of the personal property exception, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8522 (b) (3).  Cook v. Emergency Medical Services Assoc., et al., 60 Som.L.J. 154 (2001) (Fike, P.J.).