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Malpractice Claimant’s Offer of Proof Was Sufficient to Raise Legitimate Question of Liability, According to Massachusetts Appeals Court

Legal News GavelUnlike car accident or slip and fall cases, Cape Cod medical malpractice lawsuits require that the plaintiff make an offer of proof before a special tribunal. If the tribunal does not find that the plaintiff’s offer is adequate, the plaintiff may post a bond within a certain time period, or he or she may appeal the case to the appellate court for a review of the tribunal’s finding.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent (unreported) appellate case was the personal representative of the estate of a man who died after suffering a full cardiac arrest in 2012. The man, who was 46 years old at the time of his death, had been under the care of the defendant physician (a primary care physician). The plaintiff’s complaint sounded in medical negligence, including allegations that the defendant’s failure to “appreciate and address” the decedent’s heart disease violated the applicable standard of care and caused his premature death.

Pursuant to Massachusetts Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 60B, the case was referred to a medical malpractice tribunal, which concluded that the plaintiff’s offer of proof, even if properly substantiated, was insufficient to raise a legitimate question of liability appropriate for judicial inquiry. The plaintiff did not post a bond within 30 days of the tribunal’s finding, and thus her claim was dismissed by the trial court.

Decision of the Court

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the trial court’s judgment of dismissal and remanded the case with an order that the determination of the tribunal be replaced with a determination that the plaintiff’s order of proof was sufficient to raise a legitimate question appropriate for judicial inquiry.

In so holding, the court noted that a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must be able to show that 1) the defendant was a provider of health care as that term is defined under Massachusetts law, 2) the defendant did not conform to good medical practice, and 3) there was harm resulting from the defendant’s actions (or failure to take action). Generally, expert testimony is required in order for the offer of proof to be adequate.

Here, there was evidence that the decedent had repeatedly complained to the defendant doctor about symptoms that, according to the plaintiff’s expert witness, were indicative of coronary heart disease. The expert also opined that the defendant’s failure to address these symptoms constituted a deviation from the standard of care and caused the decedent’s death. While the defendant disputed the expert’s opinion, the court found that the plaintiff had satisfied her initial burden of raising a legitimate question of liability.

Have You or a Family Member Suffered Harm Due to Medical Negligence?

For those who believe that they or a loved one has been a victim of a doctor or other health care provider’s deviation from the applicable standard of care, prompt action is important. Medical charts must be reviewed, and paperwork must be filed with the court system within both the statute of limitations and the statute of repose, or else the claim will likely be dismissed on procedural grounds. To speak to an established Cape Cod medical malpractice attorney about your case, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, today at 888-262-6664. There is no charge for the first appointment, and many cases are accepted on a contingency fee agreement (in which legal fees are withheld when the case is settled or a judgment is entered).

Related Blog Posts:

Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Action Fails Due to Insufficient Proof, Says Massachusetts Appeals Court

Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds that Patient’s Offer of Proof Was Sufficient to Proceed to Trial in Medical Malpractice Case