Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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Hours after receiving an angiogram from defendant-petitioner Dr. James Chapman, Dr. Lynn Harner died. Dr. Harner's wife, plaintiff-respondent Carolyn Harner subsequently sued petitioner for medical malpractice. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur shifted the burden of proof to the defendant in accordance with Colorado case law, or whether it shifted only the burden of production in accordance with more recently adopted Colorado Rule of Evidence (CRE) 301. The Court of Appeals followed case law and disregarded CRE 301 n the absence of any clear statements by the Supreme Court overruling its precedent. After considering the various conflicting authorities on the subject, the Supreme Court concluded that CRE 301 represented the better approach to burden-shifting under res ipsa loquitur. Therefore, the court reversed the court of appeals' judgment and remanded the case for further consideration of respondent's remaining arguments. View "Chapman v. Harner" on Justia Law

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Respondent-plaintiff Scott Simpson sought to obtain meeting minutes from two Cedar Springs Hospital quality management committees in his medical malpractice case. Cedar Springs refused to produce these documents, arguing they were protected by the quality management privilege in 25-3-109, C.R.S. (2014). Simpson argued at trial that Cedar Springs failed to show that the quality management program was "approved by" the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDHPE), and because Cedar Springs failed to adhere to the requirements of the CDHPE with regard to the program, the meeting minutes should have been produced. The trial court agreed with Simpson that simple licensure was insufficient to demonstrate that facilities "complied with what they are required to comply with" and no "authoritative" documentation was provided confirming the quality management plan was properly implemented. The Supreme Court reversed: "because a quality management program is required in order to be licensed by CDHPE, and because Cedar Springs was licensed by CDHPE during all relevant periods, its quality management program was necessarily "approved." Therefore the documents Simpson sought from Cedar Springs were privileged, and the trial court erred in ordering them produced. View "Simpson v. Cedar Springs Hosp., Inc." on Justia Law

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Respondent Vasilios Haralampopoulos visited the emergency room with severe abdominal pain. After a CT scan revealed a large cystic mass in his liver, Petitioner Dr. Mauricio Waintrub examined Respondent, gave a differential diagnosis identifying four possible causes for his condition, and approved a fine-needle biopsy to determine the nature of the cyst. Petitioner Dr. Jason Kelly performed the procedure, during which Respondent suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest. Normal resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, and it took over 30 minutes to revive Respondent's heart. Lack of oxygen to his brain left Respondent in a vegetative state. Ten days later, Respondent's family and friends met with doctors to determine why Respondent went into arrest and had such a poor reaction to resuscitation efforts. After the meeting, Respondent's then-roommate and ex-girlfriend Gulsans Akyol Hurd approached Dr. Kelly and asked him whether Respondent's prior cocaine use could have contributed to his injuries. Dr. Kelly responded that cocaine could have contributed to Respondent's resistance to normal resuscitation efforts, but he was not a cardiologist so he did not know. Respondent brought a medical malpractice suit against seven individuals, including Petitioners Dr. Kelly and Dr. Waintrub. Respondent filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude Hurd's statements to Dr. Kelly as inadmissible hearsay not covered by any hearsay exception. The trial court denied the motion in limine, finding that Hurd's statements were made for purposes of diagnosis and treatment under Rule 803(4), and that their probative value was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice under Colorado Rule of Evidence 403. The court of appeals reversed, finding that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of Respondent's cocaine use. The court held that Hurd's statements to Dr. Kelly were not admissible under Rule 803(4) because the statements were made after Respondent was in a vegetative state and treatment was no longer possible, they were not made for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in limiting the scope of Rule 803(4) to statements made for the purpose of prospective treatment. The Rule's plain language applies to "diagnosis or treatment," and while the term "treatment" has a prospective focus, the term "diagnosis" does not. "Here, Hurd's statements were made for the purpose of discovering the cause of Respondent's resistance to normal resuscitation efforts, and were thus admissible under Rule 803(4)." The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Kelly v. Haralampopoulos" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was a trial court's order striking the testimony of plaintiff's rebuttal expert witness, and portions of two of plaintiff's previously disclosed expert witnesses. The underlying case centered on a medical malpractice claim brought by the parents of a minor child against a hospital, its management and the doctor that delivered the child. The minor was allegedly injured at birth after his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, depriving his brain of oxygen. The parties disputed the cause of the child's injuries: Plaintiffs argued the child was injured by preventable intrapartum events (namely Defendants' alleged negligence); defendants argued the injuries occurred days, or possibly weeks prior to birth. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court held that the trial court abused its discretion when it excluded plaintiff's expert's rebuttal testimony because her testimony properly refuted a central theory of the defendants' case. The trial court also abused its discretion when it excluded the disclosed experts' testimony because the late disclosure of their testimony did not harm the defendants, as required for sanctions under Rule 37. Accordingly, the Court made the rule absolute and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "In re Warden v. Exempla" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a pending medical malpractice case from the Denver district court. Plaintiff Ernest Ortega sued Defendants Dr. David Lieuwen and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado (Kaiser) alleging negligent medical treatment given to him in 2007. Plaintiff appealed the district court's denial of his request for a protective order to cover his electronic medical records encompassing a ten-year period preceding the incident underlying this case. The trial court determined that Plaintiff's electronic medical records were not protected by the physician-patient privilege and that the records were relevant to prepare a defense. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it ruled that Plaintiff's medical records were not protected as privileged and that Defendants could use unredacted copies of all of Plaintiff's medical records. View "Ortega v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Loretta Day was referred to Respondent Dr. Bruce Johnson, M.D., for treatment for hypothyroidism. Dr. Johnson determined that surgery was needed to remove both lobes of the thyroid. A few weeks later, Mrs. Day's vocal cords stopped working, and she suffered a permanent speaking disability that she alleged was caused by the surgery. Mrs. Day and her husband sued Dr. Johnson for negligence, asserting that the Doctor incorrectly assessed Mrs. Day's condition, recommended inappropriate treatment, and improperly removed part of her thyroid. The trial court submitted the issue of Dr. Johnson's negligence to the jury which included a jury instruction that mirrored the language of a pattern jury instruction pertaining to negligence. The Days objected to the court's use of this instruction, arguing that the instruction included a misstatement of Colorado law. The court overruled the objection. The jury found that Dr. Johnson was not negligent. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's use of the instruction. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Days argued that both the trial and appellate courts erred by using the instruction. Upon careful consideration of the arguments and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts' decisions. The Court found that the portion of the pattern jury instructions accurately stated Colorado law.