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Greenbelt Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Court reinstates verdict of malpractice against psychiatrist

The field of psychiatry is unique among medical specialties in that it rarely produces objective results, such as a blood test, x-ray, MRI scan and the like. Practitioners instead rely upon the patient's subjective statements and their observations of the patient's behavior and demeanor. Nevertheless, the field has established standards of care that can provide the basis for a finding of medical malpractice. In a recent decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the finding of a trial court that set aside the jury's verdict that a psychiatrist erred in discharging a psychiatric patient who was in acute danger of committing suicide.

The patient was discharged from the psychiatric unit of a Baltimore hospital and committed suicide the next day. His family sued the hospital and the attending psychiatrist on the grounds that the patient was in an active psychotic state and should not have been released until his symptoms had subsided. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the dead man's family, but the trial court granted the defense motion for judgment in their favor notwithstanding the verdict. The trial court based its order on a finding that the plaintiff's expert psychiatrist could not offer testimony establishing both the standard of care and whether the defendant doctor's decision to discharge the patient to commit suicide.

Boxer's family sues doctor and fight promoters for $50 million

Sporting events rarely give rise to medical malpractice claims, but a unique exception is the boxing match that occurred on October 17, 2015 between Prichard Colon and Terrell Williams. In a lawsuit recently filed in the District of Columbia, the physician who supervised the fight has been sued for medical malpractice by Colon's family for failing to stop the fight.

Colon was a promising welterweight boxer. The plaintiffs allege that Colon absorbed several illegal rabbit punches in the back of his head. Colon began to complain of head pain and dizziness. Between the seventh and eighth rounds, the supervising physician examined Colon but allowed the fight to continue. The fight was stopped in the ninth round after Colon's handlers, believing that the referee had stopped the fight, cut off Colon's gloves, immediately disqualifying him. In his dressing room, Colon vomited and collapsed. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, where doctors conducted emergency brain surgery and discovered a subdural hematoma. The hematoma ultimately caused Colon to lapse into a coma, from which he has not recovered.

Small hospital faces four malpractice suits in two years

Most instances of medical malpractice in Maryland and elsewhere occur in hospitals, where many different healthcare professionals may be involved in the care of a single patient. Errors may be made by a physician, a nurse, an X-ray technician or any one of the myriad of care givers that attend to patients. Nevertheless, a single hospital, especially one located in a small town, should not face a significant number of lawsuits alleging medical malpractice. A remarkable exception is a community hospital in Denison, Iowa.

The hospital's malpractice insurer settled a wrongful death in 2016 and attempted to prevent the terms of the settlement from becoming public. A court case later forced the hospital to disclose the terms of the settlement. Now it faces three more wrongful death suits, all of which are based on medical errors. The statistical evidence is troubling. Iowa has 120 hospitals, and those hospitals generate about 160 malpractice suits in a single year, about 1.33 per hospital per year. Only a small fraction of those suits involves the wrongful death of a patient.

Failure to perform C-section results in $33.8m malpractice award

The failure of a government physician to properly attend to a mother in labor has resulted in a federal judge awarding the baby and its family a total of $33.8 million. The medical malpractice was committed by a physician at a community health center that was funded by the United States government and that provided health care to persons who were uninsured and could not afford to pay for the care.

The mother was 19 years old and giving birth to her first baby. After she went into labor, the young woman began repeatedly yelling "Just cut me!" According to an experienced maternity nurse who was present, the doctor ignored the baby's slowing pulse rate while he dealt with other patients and spoke by telephone to his financial adviser. The baby was not breathing when it was born, but it was soon revived and began breathing independently. Unfortunately, the baby had suffered irreversible brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation.

Hospital sued for ignoring health care directive

Elderly persons are encouraged to complete health care directives to be used in case they become incapacitated and cannot speak for themselves or make decisions about their medical care. Most states, including Maryland, have enacted laws making such forms legally binding on health care providers.

A specific type of such a form - Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment - is intended to be used if the patient suffers cardiac arrest or pulmonary failure. The MOLST form is generally used to indicate that the patient should not be revived in such a circumstance. A lawsuit was recently filed in Maryland charging the nursing staff of Maryland General Hospital with medical negligence because it attempted to revive a patient contrary to the order in the MOLST form that had been prepared by her family.

Vet's estate wins $793,000 verdict against VA for malpractice

The United States Veterans Administration provides life-time free medical care to veterans and their families, but just as with other health care providers, the VA's doctors and their staff make mistakes in treatment and diagnosis. A recent medical malpractice verdict in favor of a deceased veteran's estate may have favorable implications for veterans and their families who reside in Maryland.

The deceased was a Vietnam veteran who received surgical treatment for an ailing gallbladder in 2012. According to the plaintiffs, the deceased suffered unexpected complications and was hospitalized twice thereafter. Ten days after the first surgery, he died. The veteran's estate sued the VA for medical malpractice, alleging that the VA doctors were negligent in their diagnosis and treatment of the deceased vet.

Doctor's insurance fraud leads to malpractice claims

Insurance fraud is a crime; medical malpractice is not. The two kinds of doctor error have come together in a case that could have ramifications for insurers and patients in Maryland and elsewhere. An orthopedic surgeon who pleaded guilty to insurance fraud was recently released from prison, and he now faces more than 200 medical malpractice law suits associated with the fraudulent insurance claims.

In November 2013, the doctor, who practiced in New York, pleaded guilty to a single count of the federal crime of health care fraud. He admitted that he had billed insurance companies for surgeries that were not medically necessary or were not in fact performed and for office-based procedures at a higher rate than Medicare regulations allowed. Some of the unnecessary surgeries resulted in patient deaths.

Howard University hospital cited for high malpractice rate

Starting with its founding in 1862, Howard University Hospital in the District of Columbus has historically provided quality medical care for the city's black population. A recent report by the Washington Post now shows that the hospital is suffering from poor management and a high number of medical malpractice lawsuits and settlements.

The Post examined records relating to 675 malpractice cases involving Howard and five other hospitals in the District. Of those six, Howard had the highest rate of wrongful death lawsuits per bed. Howard and its insurers paid $27 million to settle 22 of 82 cases medical negligence cases filed against it. The details of settlements in other cases were not made public.

Untimely meningitis diagnosis leads to $10 million award

A physician's failure to properly diagnose a patient's illness or other medical condition can often be catastrophic. Symptoms can go untreated and worsen, and an otherwise treatable disease may become life-threatening. Many people in Maryland understand that a failure to properly diagnose can have even more dire consequences if children are involved. A recent state appellate court decision could affect similar cases in this state.

In December of 2009, an 11-month-old child was taken to an emergency room suffering from a fever and difficulty breathing. He was initially diagnosed as suffering from an upper-respiratory infection and bronchitis. Three days after the initial diagnosis, doctors performed a lumbar puncture and discovered that the child was suffering from meningitis, which in turn caused streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis, bilateral hearing loss and brain damage.

Using civil mediation in a medical malpractice case

Suing a physician or hospital to recover damages for professional negligence can be a lengthy and expensive process. In an effort to help litigants resolve their differences faster and with less expense, the Maryland courts have devised a set of procedures known generally as Alternative Dispute Resolution. One of the most popular and effective such procedures is mediation. It is important to look at mediation in the context of a medical malpractice case.

Mediation relies on the skill and training of a neutral person - called the "mediator" - to bring the parties together and to search for a compromise resolution that both parties will find acceptable. Mediators do not and cannot make legal decisions that affect the rights of the parties. Instead, the mediators use their legal and personal skills to assist the parties in understanding the position of the other side and to help them find a common ground.

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7501 Greenway Center Drive # 460
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