Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Medical Malpractice
Howard v. United States
Plaintiff, the widow and executrix of her late husband's estate, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging a claim of medical malpractice on behalf of the estate and alleging individually a claim of wrongful death. The claims stemmed from injuries her husband suffered during a fall, shortly before his death, while hospitalized in a Veterans Affairs hospital. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the medical malpractice claim in the absence of a breach of the applicable standard of medical care. In this case, substantial evidence supported the district court's factual findings with respect to the husband's condition on the morning of the fall and the care the nurses provided him to and after his fall. The court also held that the district court did not err in dismissing the wrongful death claim in the absence of an underlying tort claim. View "Howard v. United States" on Justia Law
Grussing v. Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, Inc.
Dr. Solman performed arthroscopic surgery on Grussing’s knee in June 2014. At her July 9 appointment, Grussing reported swelling in her knee to a physician's assistant, who recommended physical therapy. Dr. Solman did not examine Grussing. Grussing returned to Dr. Solman’s office on July 18, again reporting pain and swelling. Dr. Solman aspirated Grussing’s knee, observed that the synovial fluid looked normal, and did not test the fluid for infection. Grussing continued to experience pain and swelling. In October, a different physician aspirated Grussing’s knee and sent the fluid for analysis. The knee was chronically infected. Grussing underwent a total knee replacement. The primary issue in Grussing’s malpractice suit was whether Dr. Solman breached the standard of care when he decided not to test the synovial fluid aspirated during her July 18, appointment. Grussing opened her case with Dr. Solman’s deposition testimony; he acknowledged that fluid that does not appear cloudy can test positive for bacterial infection. The defense’s expert, Dr. Matava testified that there was no way to confirm that Grussing’s knee was infected on July 18. The Eighth Circuit affirmed a defense verdict, rejecting arguments that the district court erroneously limited Grussing’s cross-examination of Matava during an attempt to elicit testimony that fluid that is not cloudy can test positive for bacterial infection and that it failed to correct defense counsel’s misstatement of law during closing argument. The correct burden of proof was properly emphasized throughout trial. View "Grussing v. Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, Inc." on Justia Law
Day v. United States
The family of the deceased and administrator of his estate filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1), after a radiologist with the VA failed to identify a cancerous mass. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the United States, holding that although the VA failed to deliver the standard of care that the deceased deserved, the evidence presented was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the VA's negligence proximately caused plaintiffs' damages. Because the medical malpractice claims failed, so too must the wrongful-death claims. View "Day v. United States" on Justia Law
Kaplan v. Mayo Clinic
After a surgical procedure was performed on Elliot Kaplan as a result of a misdiagnosis, the Kaplans filed suit against Mayo for medical malpractice, breach of contract, lack of informed consent, and loss of consortium. The district court dismissed all claims against Dr. Nagorney, the surgeon who performed the medical procedure; the district court granted Mayo's motion for judgment as a matter of law on the breach-of-contract claim; and the jury returned a verdict for defendants on the malpractice claim. On appeal, the court upheld the jury verdict but vacated the judgment in favor of Mayo on the breach-of-contract claim, and held that the district court erred by requiring expert testimony to establish a contract breach and remanded the claim to trial. The district court subsequently entered judgment for Mayo. The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the district court's finding that Dr. Nagorney did not promise to do a biopsy of Elliot’s pancreas during the surgery and that no meeting of the minds occurred to form a contract. The court rejected plaintiffs' claim that this court, in Kaplan I, forbid defendants' use of expert testimony to establish a defense to the claim of a special contract in the performance of the operation. Because the district court committed no error, the court upheld the district court's factual findings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Kaplan v. Mayo Clinic" on Justia Law
Montin v. Moore
After plaintiff was released from a twenty-year period of commitment when a jury found him responsible by reason of insanity, he filed suit against various psychologists, psychiatrists, and other employees, alleging medical malpractice under Nebraska state law. Plaintiff also alleged violation of his constitutional rights to be free from unnecessary confinement and free from retaliation for seeking access to courts. The court concluded that the district court did not err by dismissing the medical malpractice claim where plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements set forth by Nebraska's State Tort Claims Act (STCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8, 209 et seq. Assuming that Nebraska waived its sovereign immunity, plaintiff still failed to bring the suit in the district court of the county in which the act or omission occurred pursuant to the STCA. In regard to the district court's dismissal of the unnecessary confinement claim, the court concluded that plaintiff only alleged defendants' actions were negligent or, at worst, grossly negligent. Therefore, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity where actions that are merely negligent or grossly negligent do no implicate the protections of the Due Process Clause. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's retaliation claim where plaintiff failed to address the claim in his opening brief. View "Montin v. Moore" on Justia Law
Hagen v. Siouxland Obstetrics & Gynecology, PC
Siouxland, a group practice of obstetrician-gynecologists, terminated Hagen, its President and an equity owner, invoking the for-cause termination provision in Hagen’s 1993, Employment Agreement, after an incident during which Hagen yelled at Dr. Eastman (another Siouxland doctor) and hospital staff, accusing them of neglecting a patient, resulting in a stillbirth. Hagen also reported the incident to hospital administration and told the Siouxland partners that he was considering reporting to the Iowa state medical board. Hagen advised the patient to sue for malpractice. Hagen filed suit, alleging wrongful retaliatory discharge in violation of Iowa public policy. The other doctors testified about Hagen’s history of workplace conflicts and outbursts and about concern that his suspension by the hospital would hurt the reputation of the practice. A jury awarded Hagen $1,051,814 in compensatory damages. The Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that Hagen failed to prove he was an at-will employee who may assert a tort claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The exclusive remedy of a medical professional practicing under Hagen’s Employment Agreement would be a breach of contract claim, which would permit inquiry into the professional conduct the district court found separately protected by the tort of wrongful termination in violation of public policy. View "Hagen v. Siouxland Obstetrics & Gynecology, PC" on Justia Law
Askew v. United States
Askew, a military veteran and a former U.S. Postal Service employee, underwent a cardiac stent placement at the St. Louis Veterans Administration Medical Center. He was readmitted with an infection and the medical center responded negligently. As a result of the infection and attendant loss of blood, Askew suffered severe anoxic brain injury and amputation of his right leg. In Askew’s suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2674, the government did not dispute liability. The government requested that the court structure an award for future medical damages as a trust to provide periodic payments to Askew, with a reversionary interest in favor of the government upon Askew’s death. The district court declined to order a reversionary trust, awarded $253,667 in past economic damages, $525,000 in past non-economic damages, $4,000,000 in future economic damages, and $2,000,000 in future non-economic damages to Dirk Askew. The court awarded $1,525,000 to Askew’s wife for loss of consortium. The Eighth Circuit vacated and remanded, describing the reversionary trust remedy as the most reasonable analogy to the relief available against a private individual in like circumstances under Missouri law. View "Askew v. United States" on Justia Law
Allard v. Baldwin
In 2011, after about two weeks of reporting symptoms and being treated for constipation and gas, Allard, a prisoner at the Clarinda Correctional Facility of the Iowa Department of Corrections , suffered a bowel obstruction and perforation. Allard had emergency surgery where a colostomy bag was installed and his bowel was repaired. Allard filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court granted summary judgment to the prison staff. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim that material questions of fact existed regarding the appropriateness of the care Allard received. Although Allard demonstrated that CCF medical staff failed to properly diagnose his bowel obstruction, and demonstrated that failure to treat the bowel obstruction led to a bowel perforation, Allard failed to put forward evidence to support a finding of deliberate indifference. View "Allard v. Baldwin" on Justia Law
Lawrey v. Kearney Clinic, P.C., et al.
After plaintiff's daughter was born with permanent nerve damage in her right shoulder and arm, plaintiff filed suit against the physician who performed the delivery of plaintiff's daughter. The court concluded that the proper standard for review of the district court's order granting the motion in limine is abuse of discretion, not plain error; the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the testimony of plaintiff's experts because the experts' opinions did not fit the specific facts of this case; the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of informed consent where the record did not support the contention that the physician's expert testified the risk factors present in this case required a physician to warn a patient about the possibility of a permanent injury; and the court rejected plaintiff's contention that the district court should have granted her a new trial based on allegedly prejudicial and inflammatory comments made by defense counsel during closing arguments. View "Lawrey v. Kearney Clinic, P.C., et al." on Justia Law
Rochling v. Dept. of VA, et al.
After a patient's death, the patient's family sued the VA for medical malpractice. The VA settled with the family and determined that the settlement was "for the benefit of" plaintiff, who was a treating physician. Plaintiff then filed suit against the VA alleging violations of his due process rights and violations of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq. The court concluded that the district court did not err by dismissing the procedural due process claim because plaintiff failed to plead the deprivation of a constitutionally protected interest; the district court did not err by dismissing plaintiff's substantive due-process claim because plaintiff's pleadings were insufficient; the VA's factfinding procedures were adequate and the district court properly rejected de novo review; the district court did not grossly abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion to supplement the record; and the VA's decision was not arbitrary or capricious, and the district court did not err by granting summary judgment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Rochling v. Dept. of VA, et al." on Justia Law