Recent Missouri medical malpractice decisions

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.

Further, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District held that a doctor’s testimony, that she would not have acted any differently had the nurses questioned her treatment, was not enough evidence to absolve the nurses from liability. In Lunn v. Anderson, et al., No. 92395, plaintiff alleged that defendant DePaul’s nurses had a duty to inquire to the doctor whether she wanted Lovenox, a blood thinning coagulant, restarted. The doctor had testified that she had no intention to restart Lovenox, and any inquiries by the nurses would not have made a difference in her decision. However, there was nothing in the medical records about the doctor’s decision to not continue Lovenox. The Court of Appeals held that there was a genuine issue of material fact about whether the doctor consciously intended to discontinue the Lovenox, and that summary judgment was not appropriate as to DePaul. The case was reversed and remanded.

The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District held that when a plaintiff’s attorney files a false health care affidavit under Section 538.225, RSMo., the proper remedy is sanctions against the attorney, not dismissal of the plaintiff’s action. Camden et al. v. Hamley, et al., No. 29715.

In Fortenberry v. Buck, No. 70490, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District held that a motion for summary judgment was the proper method for a defendant to raise the defense that workers’ compensation bars an action for civil damages.

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