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Wrongful Death Suit Alleging Malpractice in Mental Health Treatment Dismissed by Massachusetts Court of Appeal Due to Insufficient Offer of Proof

medical coatsFiling a claim for medical negligence in Cape Cod or elsewhere in Massachusetts can be a complicated endeavor. It pays to talk to an attorney as soon as possible after suspecting that you or someone close to you has been hurt by an act of medical malpractice.

It takes a considerable amount of time to properly investigate and substantiate a medical malpractice claim. If the appropriate paperwork is not completed in a timely fashion – or if the offer of proof submitted to the medical malpractice tribunal does not meet the requirements of Massachusetts medical malpractice law – the case is subject to dismissal, even if the plaintiff was severely injured or even passed away because of a medical provider’s mistake.

Facts of the Case

In a recent Massachusetts Appeals Court case, the plaintiff was the personal representative of the estate of a woman who was admitted to a hospital on a conditional voluntary status following the death of her premature twins. The purpose of the hospitalization was for the decedent to be treated for mental health issues. She signed a “three-day notice” and was discharged from the hospital. She died the next day from an “acute mixed drug intoxication.” The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital and the doctor who evaluated the decedent prior to her release, asserting a claim for medical malpractice.

The medical malpractice tribunal ruled the plaintiff’s offer of proof insufficient, and she failed to post the required bond thereafter. Accordingly, the trial court dismissed the case, and the plaintiff appealed.

Decision of the Court

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s case without prejudice. In order to proceed with a viable claim for medical malpractice in Massachusetts, a claimant must offer proof that 1) the defendant was a provider of health care, 2) the defendant failed to exercise the degree of care and skill expected of an average practitioner in the same specialty, and 3) the defendant’s breach of the duty of care was, more probably than not, the cause of the harm of which the plaintiff complains. This usually requires expert testimony.

The court noted that the offer of proof submitted by the plaintiff was lacking in several respects; it was not in affidavit form, it did not contain any information about the expert’s qualifications (such as education or work experience), and it did not indicate that the expert was familiar with the applicable standard of care involved in the case. Even under the “extremely lenient” standard of establishing an expert’s qualifications before the tribunal, the court found that the plaintiff’s expert did not meet the requirements of establishing the applicable standard of care, nor the defendants’ breach thereof. Accordingly, the court deemed the offer of proof insufficient and affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the case.

If You Have Questions About a Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Claim

Although the plaintiff in this particular case was not successful in her appeal, there are many medical malpractice claimants who are able to pursue substantial monetary compensation for harm caused by a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other medical provider each year. To speak to a seasoned Cape Cod medical malpractice lawyer, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, to schedule a free consultation. You should be mindful that claims not filed within the statutes of limitations and repose are subject to dismissal as untimely, so you should not delay in talking to a lawyer about your case.

Related Blog Posts:

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