Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

doctor.jpgThe Missouri Courts of Appeals issued four recent decisions pertaining to medical malpractice law in Missouri.

The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District, in St. Louis Missouri, held that a trial court judge taking over the questioning of plaintiffs’ expert was in error and prejudicial, and reversed and remanded the case for a new trial. In Watson, et al. v. Tenet Healthsystem, et al., No. 91997, a jury awarded a verdict in plaintiffs’ favor for their wrongful death and medical negligence case. Defendants appealed, arguing that there was no evidence of causation. During the trial, the judge asked his own questions of the plaintiffs’ expert witness, and after he was done turned the witness over to the defendants for cross examination; the expert never did testify as to causation. However, the Court of Appeals held that an outright reversal on this basis would be unjust considering the trial court judge’s behavior in taking over questioning the witness, and instead ordered a new trial.
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The Missouri Supreme Court heard argument on April 14, 2010 on whether Section 490.715, RSMo, is constitutional. In medical malpractice and personal injury cases, Section 490.715 creates a rebuttable presumption that the amount actually paid to satisfy the health care provider’s bill is the value of the medical treatment rendered.

In Deck v. Teasley, SC90628, the amount of Deck’s medical bills from an automobile accident totaled $27,900. However, Medicare paid $9,904.28, which the health care providers accepted as satisfaction of the bills. Deck was not allowed by the trial court to present evidence of the $27,900 bill, and was instead only allowed to present to the jury the $9,904.28 which was paid by Medicare. Deck’s expert was prepared to testify that the $27,900 was a fair and reasonable amount.

Deck’s constitutionality argument is centered on the assertion that House Bill 393, the 2005 tort reform bill, did not contain one subject clearly expressed in its title as required by the Constitution.

The Missouri Supreme Court will determine whether requiring medical malpractice plaintiffs to file an affidavit from a “legally qualified health care provider” in support of their claim is constitutional under Section 538.225, RSMo. Under Section 538.225, a Missouri medical malpractice plaintiff must file an affidavit with the court stating that a legally qualified health care provider has provided him with a written opinion that states that the defendant did not use the care a reasonably prudent and careful health care provider would have under similar circumstances and that this failure caused plaintiff’s damages. Under this statute, a “legally qualified health care provider” must practice in the same specialty as the defendant.

Spradling et al. v. SSM Health Care St. Louis, et al., challenges Section 538.225, and plaintiffs argue that the trial court’s interpretation of the statute is unconstitutional. Spradling brought medical malpractice claims against defendants for surgery on her back which left her paralyzed. The surgery was performed by Dr. Sprich, a neurosurgeon. In 2009, SSM Medical Group moved to dismiss Spradling’s medical malpractice claims against it, arguing that plaintiff’s affidavit did not meet to the statutory requirements because the opinion was written by a radiologist, not a neurosurgeon like Sprich. Therefore, SSM argued that plaintiff’s health care provider was not a “legally qualified health care provider” as defined by Section 538.225 because Sprich is a neurosurgeon, and the radiologist did not practice in substantially the same specialty as Sprich. The trial court sustained the motion to dismiss.
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