Recently in Medical Malpractice Category

May 6, 2015

State Supreme Court Dismisses Parents' Claim for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress After Son's Suicide

At the end of last month, the opinion and decision in a negligent infliction of emotional distress in relation to medical malpractice claim was released by the Supreme Court in Connecticut. Like New Mexico, Connecticut allows claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress to be brought in certain very limited circumstances.

hospital-1385736-m.jpgThis case revolves around a tragic incident when a family called the police department because their son was expressing suicidal ideations. Their son was detained by police and taken to the emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation. The medical staff at the hospital evaluated the son and left a message with his parents to notify them that the son would be released because he was not a danger to himself. The son left the hospital and proceeded to find an electrical cord and hang himself outside his parent's home. Unfortunately, the attempts to resuscitate him were futile, and he subsequently suffered a brain injury and was taken off life support.

The family brought a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress and a medical malpractice claim. The court held that in certain very limited situations a bystander claim may be brought in a medical malpractice action. However, they also held that the family did not suffer severe and debilitating emotional distress, which is the requirement in negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. The Supreme Court subsequently affirmed the lower court's finding.

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January 20, 2015

Hospital Attempts to Get Case Dismissed Because of Statute of Limitations

In a recent case, the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed a lower court's decision not to dismiss a case against a hospital because of a statute of limitations issue. A woman died at a hospital in June 2007, and in October of that year her beneficiaries provided a notice of claim against the hospital with the county chancery and county attorney. The beneficiary did not provide any notice to the hospital's CEO at this point. The following year, the beneficiary sued the hospital and at that point provided the hospital's CEO with the complaint.

fractured-time-1435044-m.jpgThe hospital's attorney moved to dismiss the complaint. They argued that the plaintiff did not follow legal protocol and provide the hospital with notice of the suit, and therefore the suit was now barred by the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court found that when a plaintiff files a complaint, the statute of limitations is tolled, and the presuit notice was sufficient because the suit was filed within a year of the second complaint.

Importance of Statute of Limitations in New Mexico

Every state has certain enumerated rules and regulations regarding when specific civil lawsuits can be brought. These time limits are referred to as the statute of limitations, and they must be strictly adhered to. In New Mexico, the time period on the statute of limitations begins to run when the claim arises. Sometimes this is when the accident occurred or when an injury is discovered.

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November 16, 2014

Settlement Reached in Ebola Victim Case

Early last month, an individual died as a result of Ebola. This was the first recorded death from the disease in United States history. The Associated Press reported that the patient arrived at a Texas emergency room and was discharged with only antibiotics. He came back to the hospital two days later and was diagnosed with Ebola and passed away.

sterilisation-1385734-m.jpgThe patient's family wanted to initiate a lawsuit claiming that the hospital was negligent in its failure to admit the victim to the hospital when he first arrived. The hospital agreed that it was a mistake to release the individual, and it has provided all pertinent documentation.

The hospital and victim's family entered into settlement negotiations and came to an agreement early last week that included a foundation in honor of the victim.

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October 27, 2014

New Mexico Supreme Court Reverses the Court of Appeals and Allows Plaintiff's Vicarious-Liability Claim to Proceed to Trial

In a decision released in September, the New Mexico Supreme Court reversed a state Court of Appeals decision affirming the dismissal of a plaintiff's medical malpractice claim against a hospital resulting from the death of a patient. The plaintiff's lawsuit, filed on behalf of the deceased patient, claims that a radiologist employed by the defendant hospital failed to communicate the results of a radiology report to the patient's doctor, preventing the patient from being diagnosed with the colon cancer that later took his life.

woman-in-hospital-1051476-m.jpgThis appeal focuses on the plaintiff's claim against the hospital where he was treated. The radiologist who allegedly failed to send the report to the man's doctor was a contract employee of the defendant hospital, but he wasn't directly employed by them. The district court made the decision, which was affirmed by the court of appeals, that the plaintiff failed to properly allege that the hospital was vicariously liable for the negligence of the radiologist.

The court ruled that the plaintiff's complaint failed to put the hospital on notice that it was being sued for the mistakes made by the radiologist, and it was therefore dismissed.

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October 13, 2014

Federal Officials Confirm Breach in Safety Protocol Resulted in First Transmission of Ebola Virus within United States

A worker at a hospital in Texas has tested positive for the Ebola virus after having treated an African man for the virus earlier this month. According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, the original patient from Liberia who was in the United States to visit family was being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas for the virus last week.

virus-1295739-m.jpgThe man contracted the virus in Africa but began to show symptoms in the United States and died from the illness late last week. According to federal officials, the healthcare worker who has contracted the virus from him was exposed because of a failure to follow the proper safety protocol for treating a patient infected with Ebola, and an investigation continues.

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August 5, 2014

New Details Emerge in New Mexico Woman's Death During Open Heart Surgery

New details are coming to light about the power failure at the University of New Mexico Hospital on August 11, 2011. The incident resulted in a loss of power in an operating room where a woman was having heart surgery performed. The surgery was aborted, and the woman ultimately died from cardiogenic shock. Last year, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the hospital on the woman's behalf. Now, the hospital has filed suit against three contractors who performed an electrical upgrade on the hospital in 2009.

operation-1389104-m.jpg"No Backup Generator Kicked In"

According to an ABQ Journal report, it was over an hour into Kathleen Williams' coronary bypass surgery at UNMH when the power to the operating room went out. Since the power interruption resulted from a rooftop circuit breaker problem, and not a larger power outage, the hospital's back-up generator did not go into effect, and the lights and most machines supporting Ms. Williams were without power for a full 10 minutes. After the power was restored, the operating team decided to abort the operation and sewed Ms. Williams back up. Unfortunately, the shock of the surgery was too much for Ms. Williams to handle, and she died four days later.

Who is Responsible for Ms. Williams' Death?

Last August, Ms. Williams' family filed a New Mexico malpractice lawsuit against UNMH, alleging that the hospital breached the standard of care that they owed Ms. Williams. The suit alleges that the hospital failed to maintain the systems that are critical for the operating room to function, and this malpractice resulted in Ms. Williams' death. Since the family has filed suit against the hospital, the hospital has filed a separate lawsuit against three contractors that installed an electrical upgrade in 2009. The hospital may divert some responsibility from themselves to the contractors, but whether the contractors or the hospital made the ultimate mistake has no effect on the hospital's duty to Ms. Williams.

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March 13, 2014

Recent New Mexico Appellate Court Decision Harmful to Medical Malpractice Plaintiffs, Increases Importance of Quickly Consulting an Attorney

In a disappointing decision by the New Mexico Court of Appeals in October of last year, a plaintiff's bad drug and medical malpractice claim against his doctor was dismissed because the statute of limitations expired before the suit was filed. The Court's ruling in Chavez v. Delgado, 2014-NMCA-014 (2014), is important because it determined that the three year statute of limitations period for a medical malpractice claim begins when an injured plaintiff is prescribed an allegedly harmful medication, and not when he or she suffers a related injury or dies.

magic-pills-1418156-m.jpgDangerous Drug Interaction May have Caused Man's Death

According to the Court's recitation of the facts, Jose Chavez was prescribed the generic version of Zocor by his doctor on November 11, 2008. When prescribing the medication, Dr. James Delgado failed to notice a dangerous drug interaction between Zocor and another of Mr. Chavez' prescribed medications. On December 3, 2008, Chavez filled the prescription for Zocor and began to take the medication. After consuming the dangerous combination of drugs, he became ill and was hospitalized with drug induced rhabdomyolysis. Within 14 months, Jose Chavez was dead.

The Liability for Mr. Chavez' Death

Mr. Chavez was survived by his wife and multiple children, the plaintiffs in a suit against the doctor and clinic for medical malpractice. The lawsuit alleged that before he prescribed the Zocor, Dr. Delgado had a duty to check for harmful interactions with Chavez' other medications. The family claimed Delgado was liable for Chavez' illness and death, and requested damages as a result of the doctor's negligence. In their defense, Dr. Delgado and the clinic argued that the case be dismissed because it was not filed within three years of the date that Dr. Delgado wrote the prescription for the Zocor.

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December 26, 2013

Another Medical Negligence Jury Verdict Issued Against Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe

file000381741411 morguefile username ronnieb.jpgA Santa Fe jury has issued a $1 million award in yet another medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. In Jiron et al. v. Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, et al., Zelda Jiron was treated at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center for severe abdominal pain in 2010. After Jiron was admitted to the hospital, she was apparently given multiple doses of a powerful narcotic pain reliever. Sometime following administration of the drug, a medical professional employed by the hospital purportedly attempted to examine Jiron. Instead, the hospital employee purportedly left Jiron's room after discovering the patient was sleeping. About 20 minutes later, Jiron's husband, Simon, found her foaming at the mouth, twitching, and turning purple. He called for help and Christus St. Vincent medical staff resuscitated Jiron. Later, the hospital reportedly discovered that Jiron suffered a cardio-pulmonary arrest.

As a result of the incident, Jiron filed a medical negligence lawsuit seeking more than $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Christus St. Vincent in a New Mexico federal court. Her husband also sought damages for loss of consortium that directly resulted from the woman's near death event. At trial, Jiron argued that hospital doctors should have monitored her condition more closely after administering the potent drug. Jiron, who is apparently morbidly obese, also alleged that the drug is known to cause breathing issues in both sleeping and overweight patients. Additionally, Jiron provided testimony that the medical professional who found her sleeping has a history of improperly dosing her patients and that the hospital worker changed information in Jiron's medical chart after she was resuscitated.

Following five days of testimony, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Jiron for $250,000 in compensatory damages and $750,000 in punitive damages. The jurors, however, elected not to award financial compensation for loss of consortium to Jiron's husband.

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December 19, 2013

Santa Fe County Jury Says Hospital Acted Negligently in Connection With 20-Year-Old's Death

file0001300605042 morguefile username click.jpgIn mid-December, a Santa Fe jury issued a $2.25 million wrongful death verdict against Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in connection with the death of a young woman in 2008. In Christopherson v. Christus Health, et al., a 20-year-old woman sought emergency medical treatment for stomach pain that was purportedly related to pancreatitis at the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe. The hospital apparently transferred Mercedes Christopherson to an Albuquerque hospital where she was treated for about one week. Four days after Chistopherson's release from the Albuquerque hospital, she again sought treatment for severe stomach pain at Christus St. Vincent.

After she returned to Christus St. Vincent, Christopherson was treated with a short course of antibiotics. Although the young woman suffered a fever during her hospital stay, she was reportedly discharged without any further antibiotics treatment after only one week. At the time of her discharge, Christopherson's oxygen-saturation levels were apparently dangerously low. In addition, the 20-year-old was released despite that she purportedly tested positive for an inter-abdominal infection.

According to the lawsuit, Christopherson was given a prescription for a pain relief patch when she was discharged from Christus St. Vincent. The drug provided through the patch is a narcotic that may depress a patient's respiratory system. About 18 hours after she was released, Christopherson reportedly became unresponsive. The young woman was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent where she was unfortunately declared brain dead at despite efforts to resuscitate her. Less than two days after her discharge from the medical facility, Christopherson died as an apparent result of septicemia.

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December 6, 2013

New Mexico Court of Appeals Allows Emergency Room Doctor to Provide Expert Testimony in Foot Amputation Case

Thumbnail image for file7331271451604 morguefile username mensatic.jpgThe Court of Appeals of New Mexico has held that an emergency room doctor is qualified to testify as an expert in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In Quintana v. Acosta, a diabetic man, Richard Quintana, was treated by Dr. Steven Acosta at a Lovington hospital emergency room for a puncture wound to his left foot. At the hospital, Mr. Quintana's wound was cleaned by a nurse and he was discharged after his physician determined a prescription for prophylactic antibiotics was not necessary. Mr. Quintana was also instructed in writing to follow up with his primary care doctor.

Six days later, Mr. Quintana experienced complications while on a trip to Mexico. He was hospitalized and received intravenous antibiotics at a Mexican hospital before he returned to New Mexico. Upon his return, Mr. Quintana was admitted to the University of New Mexico Hospital where he underwent surgery to amputate his left foot. Following surgery, Mr. Quintana filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Acosta and the hospital where he is employed.

At trial, an emergency room physician, Dr. Robert P. Wahl provided expert testimony regarding Mr. Quintana's emergency room treatment. After reviewing the facts of the case, Dr. Wahl stated Dr. Acosta violated the prevailing standard of care when he failed to prescribe prophylactic antibiotics to Mr. Quintana following his injury. Dr. Acosta responded by filing a motion to exclude Dr. Wahl's opinion. A district court granted Dr. Acosta's motion after concluding "Dr. Wahl was offering scientific opinions based on scientific knowledge." According to the court, Dr. Wahl's testimony did not satisfy the scientific knowledge factors required by Daubert-Alberico. Additionally, the district court held that Dr. Wahl's opinion went "beyond the scope of expertise of the average emergency room physician."

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November 19, 2013

New Mexico Appeals Court Clarifies Medical Malpractice Versus Ordinary Negligence in Richter v. Presbyterian Healthcare Services

file000640497966 morguefile username click.jpgIn Richter v. Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the Court of Appeals of New Mexico addressed the distinction between ordinary negligence and medical malpractice. In the wrongful death case, Ms. Richter was treated at Presbyterian Healthcare Services (PHS) for cardiac symptoms in 2001. Her doctor ordered related testing for what he suspected was an undiagnosed pheochromocytoma. Although Richter's samples were initially sent to Regional Lab Corporation (RLC), they were later shipped to another laboratory for completion. About five days later and over the course of the weekend, two sets of results demonstrating that Richter in fact suffered from the undiagnosed condition were sent to RLC. On the following Monday, the results were processed by the laboratory. Although the results were electronically transmitted to the hospital, it is unclear whether the results were physically shipped to PHS on Monday or Tuesday.

The same day Richter's results were processed, she was discharged from PHS. It is not apparent whether her physician reviewed Richter's test results prior to her release from the hospital. About four years later, Richter passed away during surgery to remove a tumor on her adrenal gland. Although Richter's surgeon ordered new testing to determine whether the lump was a pheochromocytoma, he apparently performed the surgery before receiving the lab results.

Following Richter's death, her husband filed a wrongful death lawsuit against PHS, RLC, and her surgeons. At trial, RLC argued that the Medical Malpractice Act applied to Mr. Richter's claims. The district court found that RLC's acts were ministerial in nature and subject to the principles of ordinary negligence. The court also granted summary judgment in favor of RLC and PHS. Mr. Richter then appealed.

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September 19, 2013

New Mexico Supreme Court Rules Medical Malpractice Caps Apply to Doctors' Professional Businesses

file0001110988167 morguefile username mensatic.jpgThe New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled in three separate cases that businesses formed by physicians are subject to the same medical malpractice caps as individual doctors. According to the high court, professional corporations and limited liability companies established for business or tax purposes meet the definition of a health care provider under the 1978 Medical Malpractice Act (MMA). The 15-page opinion of the court stated that deciding otherwise would thwart the law's purpose of ensuring that doctors and other medical providers in the state had access to malpractice insurance. Prior to the MMA's enactment, some private insurers reportedly began refusing to write medical malpractice policies in New Mexico.

In 2011, the New Mexico Legislature passed a measure that would have made clear such corporate entities were in fact subject to the provisions of the MMA. Governor Susana Martinez later vetoed the bill that would also have increased medical malpractice damages caps across the state.

In New Mexico, medical malpractice occurs whenever a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other health care provider fails to adhere to a reasonable standard of care and a patient is harmed. Medical negligence may also arise from a medical provider's failure to take a medically necessary or appropriate action in addition to an intentional or unintentional act. For example, malpractice may occur when a medical professional fails to offer a patient appropriate treatment, improperly diagnoses an illness, or unreasonably delays medical treatment.

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August 26, 2013

Judge Orders Third Trial in Santa Fe Medical Negligence Case

file3291233869663 morguefile username Grafixar.jpgA New Mexico judge has issued an order for a third trial in connection with a medical negligence lawsuit that was filed in 2009 against a Santa Fe hospital. According to the wrongful death complaint, the father of a 20-year-old woman who died after she was released from the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center alleges the young woman received inadequate and negligent care from the hospital. The 20-year-old was purportedly diagnosed with pancreatitis and provided with a prescription for antibiotics at the hospital in late 2008. A physician employed by Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center allegedly ordered that the woman's medication be stopped and released her. The following day, the 20-year-old apparently died as a result of septicemia.

A jury trial in 2012 resulted in a finding of negligence on the part of the hospital, but jurors reportedly could not reach an agreement with regard to damages. A second jury trial was decided in favor of Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. In August, State District Judge Raymond Ortiz, who presided over both jury trials, formally ordered a third trial due to alleged misconduct on the part of the hospital's defense attorney. According to his written order, the misconduct warranted extraordinary relief.

In the State of New Mexico, medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional such as a doctor or nurse fails to treat a patient using the prevailing standard of care and the patient sustains an injury as a direct result. Medical negligence can arise from a medical caregiver's failure to take appropriate action as well as by an intentional or unintentional act. For example, medical negligence may occur when a hospital or other medical provider does not offer appropriate treatment, improperly diagnoses a disease, or unreasonably delays medical treatment.

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April 26, 2013

Santa Fe Man Arrested for Allegedly Injuring Patients While Practicing Dentistry Without a License

1169209_daily_job_brush_those_teeth sxchu.jpgAccording to police in Santa Fe, a number of area residents were recently victimized by a man who was practicing dentistry without a license and out of his car. In April, 36-year-old Eliver Kestler was charged with conspiracy to practice dentistry without a license, practicing dentistry without a license, and distributing a controlled substance. Following his arrest, Santa Fe police reportedly found dentures and dirty dental tools in the man's vehicle.

Kestler is accused of charging a 45-year-old woman $400 to extract four teeth in January. Following the extraction, the woman allegedly contracted a severe infection. In addition, she claims Kestler failed to return with replacement teeth as he apparently promised. As a result, she purportedly filed a complaint with the Santa Fe Police Department. Since the woman filed her police report, at least five additional victims have allegedly come forward.

A representative for the New Mexico Dental Association stated patients are often placed at risk when an individual chooses to practice dentistry without a license. For example, infection, hepatitis, and HIV control measures are rarely utilized by such individuals. In addition, the Dental Association stated patients may receive inadequate dental care. The organization has advised all dental patients to ensure that anyone who provides them with dental care is licensed by the appropriate authorities.

Although the man accused in this case was not actually licensed to practice dentistry, a license in and of itself does not necessarily mean a dental or other patient will receive proper care. In New Mexico, medical malpractice can result whenever a health care provider such as a physician or dentist does not adhere to a reasonable standard of care and a patient suffers injury. Regrettably, medical malpractice cases that arise in New Mexico may be tough to prove. Whether your doctor or other medical provider is a member of the New Mexico Patient Compensation Fund can affect your ability to recover for your harm following a medical professional's negligence. If you were injured by a doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, or another person who was tasked with providing your health care, you are advised to contact a quality New Mexico medical malpractice attorney as soon as you are able.

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December 16, 2012

Study Finds State of New Mexico May be Liable for $120 Million in Albuquerque Medical Malpractice Case

1100587_hospital_hand%20sxchu%20username%20Egilshay.jpgThe State of New Mexico may be on the hook for up to $120 million in connection with a potential class action lawsuit against the University of New Mexico Hospital and a former child cancer specialist, Dr. Marilyn Duncan. The 101 medical malpractice lawsuits reportedly arose in 1998 after university hospital officials disclosed that many pediatric oncology patients were likely not provided with the newest or most effective treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia during a seven-year period. Plaintiffs also allege the hospital dissuaded them from obtaining a second opinion regarding their child’s medical care.

The University of New Mexico Hospital is a self-insured institution which means that taxpayers throughout the state foot the bill for any potential medical malpractice liability. Although New Mexico has paid about $45 million in settlements to 118 families since the disclosure, a new actuarial study allegedly found that the potential class action lawsuit was likely to have an unfavorable outcome for the hospital. A previous study estimated the state’s remaining potential liability at less than $20 million. Still, State General Services Department Secretary Ed Burckle claims no additional funds are expected to be requested from the New Mexico Legislature in the next term.

In New Mexico, tort claims such as medical negligence are subject to a damages cap. Burckle stated the new projected liability for the potential class action lawsuit was based upon a maximum possible award per outstanding claim. Although the medical malpractice lawsuits were filed in 2001, a class certification hearing is scheduled to be held in 2013 in Albuquerque. Thus far, not one of the malpractice lawsuits filed has made it to trial. Still, Dr. Duncan retired from the hospital in 1998 and later surrendered her medical license in New Mexico.

Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional fails to treat each patient pursuant to the prevailing standard of care and the patient is injured as a result. Medical negligence may arise from a medical provider’s failure to take a medically necessary or appropriate action in addition to his or her intentional or unintentional act. Malpractice may occur when a hospital, doctor, pharmacy, nurse, dentist, or other medical provider fails to offer appropriate treatment, improperly diagnoses a disease, or unreasonably delays medical treatment. If you were injured or a loved one was killed by the negligent act or omission of a health care provider in New Mexico, you may be entitled to receive monetary damages. Because the amount of time during which you have to file your medical negligence claim is limited, you are advised to contact a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as you are able.

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