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Massachusetts Court of Appeals Reverses Summary Judgment on Battery Claim in Medical Malpractice Case

Most Cape Cod medical malpractice lawsuits are based on the principles of negligence law. To prove negligence, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant healthcare provider breached the applicable standard of care and that this breach was the proximate cause of the damages for which he or she seeks monetary compensation.

In addition to negligence-based malpractice allegations, some plaintiffs’ malpractices cases may involve other types of civil wrongs, such as battery or intentional infliction of emotional distress. It is possible that the plaintiff in such a case might be successful on some, but not all, of his or her claims. Ultimately, it is up to the trial court judge and the jury (if the case gets that far) to determine these issues.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiffs included the administratrix of a deceased cancer patient and a relative of the patient. According to the plaintiff’s medical malpractice complaint, the defendant medical providers had committed several acts of medical malpractice upon the deceased patient prior to her death. The plaintiffs sought compensation for these instances of medical negligence as well as for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment as to all allegations in the plaintiffs’ complaint. The plaintiffs sought summary judgment as to the battery charge and the intentional infliction of emotional distress charge. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The Disposition on Appeal

The Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the lower court’s ruling in part and sustained it in part. The reviewing court began its analysis by exploring whether there was a viable cause of action for battery, in the medical context, based on the patient’s alleged withdrawal of consent concerning the taking of an x-ray while she was suffering from terminal cancer. After concluding that there was, the court noted that there was a factual issue as to whether the patient did, in fact, withdraw her consent during the x-ray exam and then ruled that summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ battery claim was inappropriate.

The court went on the find that these same facts, if accepted by the jury, could support the plaintiffs’ claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 111, § 70E, and breach of warranty. Thus, the lower court’s grant of summary judgment on these issues was likewise reversed. As to the remaining aspects of the plaintiffs’ complaint, the court of appeals agreed with the lower tribunal that summary judgment was proper.

Need to Ask a Massachusetts Malpractice Attorney a Question?

Sometimes an act of medical negligence is obvious (a doctor amputating the wrong limb, for example), but, in most cases, the issue of whether or not a mistake was made is a subject of much contention. If you believe that you may have been the victim of malpractice, you need to talk to an attorney who is well-connected to qualified medical experts who can review your medical records and determine whether a mistake was made. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Cape Cod medical malpractice attorney, call The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, at 888-262-6664. It is important that you not delay in seeking legal advice because there are strict deadlines for filing a medical malpractice claim in Massachusetts.