Thursday, October 2, 2014

Causation in Medical Malpractice

Causation in medical malpractice seems to be where most litigation is occurring.  This was illustrated in Williams v. Manhattan Nursing and Rehabilitation which was decided by the Mississippi Court of Appeals on Tuesday.  A copy of the opinion is located here.  The trial court granted a directed verdict to the Defendant and the Court of Appeals affirmed it.  The issue was whether the patient died as a result of the alleged malpractice.  While there was lots of testimony on malpractice that warranted sending it to a jury, there was not sufficient testimony that linked the malpractice with the death of the patient. 

The relevant section of the law in the area is below. 

"The Mississippi Supreme has found:
 In order to establish a prima facie case of medical malpractice, a plaintiff must prove (1) the    
 existence of a duty by the defendant to conform to a specific standard of conduct for the   
 protection of others against an unreasonable risk of injury; (2) a failure to conform to the         
 required standard; and (3) an injury to the plaintiff proximately caused by the breach of such duty by the defendant.

Cleveland v. Hamil, 119 So. 3d 1020, 1023 (¶10) (Miss. 2013) (citations omitted).  In a case
for medical negligence, expert testimony must be provided to establish the second and third
prongs.  Id. at (¶11).  “Nurses cannot testify as to medical causation.”  Vaughn v. Miss.
Baptist Med. Ctr., 20 So. 3d 645, 652 (¶20) (Miss. 2009). (emphasis added).".  (emphasis added).

The issue was that the doctor who established causation specifically stated that he did not use the breach of the standard of care testified by the nurse with regard to nursing care.  As such, there was no link between the two. 

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