Under Massachusetts medical malpractice law, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant health care provider violated the applicable standard of care.
First, however, the plaintiff must find an expert witness who is willing to testify in court as to what the standard of care required – and how the defendant’s actions or inaction violated this standard.
Facts of the Case
In a recent appellate case, the plaintiff was a woman whose uterus ruptured while she was in labor with her second child (her first child was delivered by C-section). She filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant registered nurse. A medical malpractice tribunal was convened, and the tribunal decided that the plaintiff had not offered sufficient proof to create a legitimate question as to the defendant nurse’s liability. The trial court entered a final judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.
(The plaintiff’s lawsuit also named an obstetrician-gynecologist and a medical group as defendants, but they were not parties to the appeal.)
Decision of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s order in the defendant’s favor. The court first noted that the plaintiff’s offer of proof consisted only of her medical records and a letter of opinion from a certain expert witness. The court then identified the primary issue before it as whether, when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the defendant’s performance during the plaintiff’s medical care conformed to good medical practice (and, if not, whether the plaintiff was harmed as a result).
In rejecting the plaintiff’s arguments on appeal, the court determined that “fatal to the plaintiff’s offer of proof” was her expert witness’ failure to address the nurse’s role in the plaintiff’s care in relation to the attending physician. Although the plaintiff complained that the defendant did not use “sufficient alacrity” to bring the plaintiff’s condition to the doctor’s attention, the court found that the attending physician was involved in the plaintiff’s care “throughout the relevant period.” Since there was nothing to show that the defendant did anything other than follow the doctor’s plan of care, the plaintiff’s allegations that she suffered harm because the defendant did not do more were “entirely speculative.”
The court also rejected portions of the expert’s opinion because it appeared that he had subjected the defendant nurse to the same standard of care as the treating physician. The court thus disagreed with the expert’s attempt to hold the nurse responsible for the alleged shortcomings of the obstetrician.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Cape Cod Injury Lawyer
Malpractice cases are always challenging. If you believe that you or a loved one has been a victim of a medical mistake or misjudgment, you should talk to an experienced Cape Cod medical malpractice lawyer so that a proper investigation can be made. At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, in Hyannis and Plymouth, we regularly handle medical negligence and other personal injury cases. There is no charge for the initial consultation.
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