Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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In this case the Supreme Judicial Court recognized the “continuing treatment doctrine” under Massachusetts law, which provides that a medical malpractice cause of action does not accrue while a patient is continuing to receive treatment for the same or related condition from the same physician who allegedly caused the patient harm. Here Plaintiffs, on behalf of their minor son, brought a medical malpractice action against Defendant-physician for his alleged negligence in connection with a “radio frequency ablation” procedure he performed on their son that eventually resulted in the amputation of the child’s leg. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Defendant, finding that the action was barred by the relevant statute of limitations because Plaintiffs knew or reasonably should have known that their son had been harmed by the Defendant’s conduct more than three years before Plaintiffs filed the action. On appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court adopted the continuing treatment exception to the discovery rule and then affirmed, holding that, because Defendant’s participation in treating the child ended more than three years before the suit was filed, the cause of action was not timely under the statute of limitations. View "Parr v. Rosenthal" on Justia Law
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Dr. Melvin Levine worked as a pediatric physician at Children’s Hospital Medical Center from 1966 to 1985. After leaving Children’s Hospital, Levine resumed practicing medicine as an employee of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (UNC) in North Carolina. In 2011, eleven former patients of Levine at UNC (collectively, Plaintiffs) brought this negligence action against Children’s Hospital, alleging that Children’s Hospital knew or should have known Levine was conducting inappropriate genital examinations of minors during his employment at Children’s Hospital yet failed to report Levine’s conduct. Due to this alleged negligence, Plaintiffs asserted that Levine was able to continue his abuse of patients, including Plaintiffs, during his employment at UNC. The superior court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Children’s Hospital did not owe a legally cognizable duty of reasonable care to Plaintiffs requiring it to take affirmative action to protect them from Levine. View "Roe No. 1 v. Children's Hosp. Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a medical malpractice action against a number of defendants, including Physician. After the medical malpractice tribunal determined there was not sufficient evidence to raise a legitimate question of Physician's liability appropriate for judicial inquiry, Plaintiffs moved for a reduction of the $6,000 bond they were required to file to continue to pursue their claim. The judge concluded that Plaintiffs were indigent. However, because the judge believed Plaintiffs' attorney was funding the expenses of litigation, including the cost of the bond, the judge refused to reduce the amount of the bond. The Supreme Court vacated the denial of Plaintiffs' motion to reduce the amount of the bond, holding that a judge cannot consider the potential resources of counsel in determining whether to reduce the bond amount under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 60B. Remanded. View "Faircloth v. DiLillo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a medical malpractice action against a number of defendants, including Physician. A medical malpractice tribunal determined that there was not sufficient evidence to support a finding of liability as to Physician. Plaintiffs were informed they had to provide a $6,000 bond to avoid dismissal of the claim pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 60B. Plaintiffs subsequently filed an emergency motion to reduce the amount of the bond, asserting that they were indigent and that failing to lower the bond amount would result in the dismissal of the case against Physician. The judge found Plaintiffs were indigent but denied the motion because he believed Plaintiffs' attorney was paying for Plaintiffs' litigation expenses. The Supreme Court vacated the denial of Plaintiffs' emergency motion and remanded, holding that, in denying Plaintiffs' motion without evaluating Plaintiffs' effort to present a sufficient offer of proof at the tribunal or the reasonableness of Plaintiffs' continued pursuit of their claim, the judge based his ruling on a legally erroneous standard and therefore abused his discretion. View "Cruz v. Siddiqi" on Justia Law

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Following the death of plaintiff's wife, plaintiff amended the complaint for medical malpractice in a pending action against defendants, to include a claim for wrongful death. The wrongful death claim in the amended complaint was subsequently dismissed as time barred pursuant to G.L.c. 260, section 4 (statute of repose), and plaintiff appealed. The court held that a wrongful death claim could be substituted for a personal injury claim only where the trial had not commenced; the original complaint alleging malpractice was filed within the statutes of limitation and repose; and the allegations of liability supporting the personal injury claim were the same as those supporting the wrongful death claim. Accordingly, the court held that the wrongful death claim in this case should not have been dismissed where plaintiff could, after the period of time set forth in the statue of repose had expired, amend a complaint alleging medical malpractice resulting in injury including expected premature death. View "Sisson, Jr., et al. v. Lhowe, et al." on Justia Law