Massachusetts medical malpractice law requires that a party who is seeking to assert a claim of negligence against a health care practitioner provide proof of his or her claim before a malpractice review tribunal before his or her case can proceed to a regular court of law.
If the tribunal does not find enough evidence for the case to continue, the plaintiff does have an “out,” in that he or she can post a bond. If this is not economically feasible, the plaintiff also has the option of appealing the tribunal’s decision to the appellate court for further review.
Facts of the Case
In a recent wrongful death case considered by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiff was the personal representative of the estate of a 29-year-old woman who died while under the care of the defendant doctors and others. The decedent presented herself at the hospital when she was 38 1/2 weeks pregnant, complaining that she was in labor. She was in good health and had given birth two two children previously. She died at the hospital some 25 hours later.
According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendants were negligent in that they failed to timely recognize that the decedent’s condition required a cesarean section, they failed to insure that the decedent’s abdomen was left open (following an emergency bedside c-section performed after she “coded”) to monitor bleeding, and they waited too long to perform an emergency hysterectomy and performed the procedure without the proper medical tools.
The medical malpractice tribunal concluded that the plaintiff had failed to raise a legitimate question of liability as to two particular doctors who were involved in the decedent’s care. After the plaintiff failed to post a bond, the superior court dismissed her claims as to these two doctors.
The Court’s Opinion on Appeal
The appellate court vacated the lower tribunal’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint against the defendant doctors, directing that the plaintiff could proceed with his claims. According to the court, the offer of proof submitted by the plaintiff, if properly substantiated, was enough to raise a legitimate question of liability appropriate for judicial inquiry.
In so holding, the court acknowledged that, while the same bases of liability was alleged against several different defendants, this was not surprising or concerning because all of the defendants were involved in the decedent’s care (albeit at different times and in different combinations) and the events at issue took place over a short span of time. Thus, unlike the justice who wrote a dissent in the case, the majority opined that the plaintiff’s case against both of the doctors involved in the appeal should move forward (the dissent agreed as to one doctor but would have ruled that the plaintiff had presented insufficient evidence as to the other.)
Wondering Whether You Might Have a Malpractice Case?
If you or a loved one has been hurt by the negligence of a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other healthcare provider, you should know that you have only a limited amount of time to file a claim seeking monetary compensation. At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, in Cape Cod and Hyannis, we offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation for those who suspect they have been the victim of medical malpractice. To schedule an appointment, call us at 888-262-6664. You make the call, and we’ll do the rest!
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