Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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Plaintiffs Tamar and Ari Ginsberg, now New Jersey residents, lived in New York during Tamar's pregnancy and at the time of the birth of their daughter, Abigail. Abigail tragically died from Tay-Sachs disease, a genetically inherited, incurable neurological disorder, at the age of three. Plaintiffs sued a New York laboratory owned and operated by defendant Quest Diagnostics Incorporated (Quest), a New Jersey-based medical testing company, alleging failure to provide correct blood test results when Ari sought to determine whether he was a Tay-Sachs carrier. Quest, in turn, asserted a third-party claim against Mount Sinai Medical Center, Inc., a New York hospital, which allegedly tested Ari's blood sample in New York pursuant to its contract with Quest. Plaintiffs also sued several New Jersey-domiciled defendants whom they alleged to have provided plaintiff Tamar with negligent advice and treatment in New Jersey. The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review in this interlocutory appeal was whether the choice-of-law principles set forth in 146, 145, and 6 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws (1971) should have been applied uniformly to all defendants in a given case, or whether courts should undertake a defendant-by-defendant choice-of-law analysis when the defendants are domiciled in different states. Although the appellate panel agreed that New Jersey and New York law diverged in material respects, it concluded that New York constituted the place of injury because it was the state of plaintiffs' domicile during Tamar's pregnancy, the state in which prenatal testing would have been conducted and the pregnancy would likely have been terminated, and the state in which Abigail was born. The panel then considered the contacts set forth in Restatement 145 and the principles stated in Restatement 6 to determine whether New Jersey had a more significant relationship to the parties and the issues than New York. The panel rejected the trial court's assumption that the law of a single state must govern all of the issues in this lawsuit and instead undertook separate choice-of-law analyses for the New Jersey and New York defendants. The panel found that the presumption in favor of New York law was overcome with regard to the New Jersey defendants, but not with regard to Quest and Mount Sinai. Finding no reversible error in the appellate court's decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ginsberg v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sought treatment for sleep apnea from an orthodontist. Plaintiff used the appliance given to him for treatment but complained that it caused the dislocation of some teeth. Contending that the orthodontist did not inform him that the appliance may dislocate teeth, plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that the treating orthodontist provided insufficient information to permit him to make an informed decision to proceed with the recommended treatment. Presented for the Supreme Court's review was the "vexing and recurring" issue of whether an affidavit of merit submitted by a plaintiff in an action alleging negligence by a licensed professional satisfied the requirements of the Affidavit of Merit statute (AOM statute). The trial court conducted a "Ferreira" conference and determined that plaintiff submitted a timely affidavit of merit; however, the court dismissed with prejudice plaintiff's complaint because plaintiff submitted the affidavit from a dentist who specialized in prosthodontics and the treatment of sleep apnea. The court stated that plaintiff knew that the dentist who treated him was an orthodontist and that the statute required submission of an affidavit of merit from a like-qualified dentist. In other words, the court determined that plaintiff was required to submit an affidavit of merit from an orthodontist rather than an affidavit from a board-certified prosthodontist who had specialized in the treatment of sleep apnea for twenty years. The Supreme Court concluded after review that the affidavit of merit submitted by plaintiff satisfied the credential requirements of the AOM statute. The Court therefore reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division and remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Meehan v. Antonellis" on Justia Law

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Defendant Sean Stoddard, D.P.M. practiced podiatry at a clinic with offices in Toms River and Lakewood. In 2007, he applied to the Rhode Island Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association (RIJUA) for medical malpractice liability insurance. Among other representations, the application indicated that at least fifty-one percent of Dr. Stoddard's practice was generated in Rhode Island; that answer was false. Dr. Stoddard submitted renewal applications from 2008 through 2011, each of which stated that at least fifty-one percent of Dr. Stoddard's practice was generated in Rhode Island. Dr. Stoddard performed three surgeries on plaintiff Thomas DeMarco, a New Jersey resident. In October 2011, DeMarco and his wife filed a medical malpractice complaint in New Jersey alleging that Dr. Stoddard negligently performed the third surgery. Dr. Stoddard forwarded the complaint to the RIJUA, which responded with a reservation of rights letter stating that the RIJUA only provided coverage for physicians who maintained fifty-one percent of their professional time and efforts in Rhode Island. The Appellate Division granted the RIJUA s motion for leave to appeal, and affirmed the trial court order. The panel determined that New Jersey law should have applied, and concluded that innocent third parties should be protected for a claim arising before rescission. The panel concluded that the RIJUA owed a duty to indemnify Dr. Stoddard up to $1 million, the amount of medical malpractice liability insurance that a physician licensed to practice medicine and performing medical services in New Jersey was required to maintain. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed after review of the appellate court record, finding that RIJUA owed neither a duty to defend nor a duty to indemnify Dr. Stoddard, who misrepresented that a portion of his practice was generated in Rhode Island, which was a fact that formed the basis of his eligibility for insurance. View "DeMarco v. Stoddard" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs James Jarrell and his wife filed a complaint against Dr. Kaul and the Market Street Surgical Center (MSSC). On summary judgment, the court found that there was no cause of action against Dr. Kaul for deceit, misrepresentation, lack of informed consent, or battery based on his failure to maintain insurance. The trial court also dismissed plaintiffs’ claims against MSSC because they lacked an expert who would testify that MSSC deviated from accepted standards of medical care by failing to properly ascertain Dr. Kaul’s credentials and by permitting an uninsured physician to perform spinal procedures in its facility. Trial proceeded against Dr. Kaul limited to the issue of medical negligence, and the jury found that Dr. Kaul negligently performed the spinal fusion, which proximately caused James Jarrell’s injury. Dr. Kaul appealed and plaintiffs cross-appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed the summary judgment orders, the jury verdict, and the damages award. The panel held that the trial court properly dismissed all claims against Dr. Kaul based on his lack of insurance because N.J.S.A.45:9-19.17 did not provide a private cause of action for injured parties. For the same reasons, the panel concluded that N.J.S.A.45:19-17(b), did not permit a direct action by a patient against a surgical center that permitted an uninsured or underinsured physician to use its facilities. The Supreme Court denied Dr. Kaul’s petition for certification, but granted plaintiffs cross-petition. Although it was undisputed that Dr. Kaul was uninsured for the procedure he performed on Jarrell, the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Jarrell’s direct claim against the physician for his failure to maintain insurance. The statute imposing the medical malpractice liability insurance requirement did not expressly authorize a direct action against a noncompliant physician and neither the language nor the purpose of the statute supported such a claim. Although a reasonably prudent patient may consider a physician’s compliance with the statutorily imposed liability insurance requirement material information, lack of compliance or failure to disclose compliance does not necessarily provide the predicate for an informed consent claim. The Court reversed and remanded plaintiffs’ claim against MSSC, holding that a cause of action for negligent hiring could be asserted against a facility that granted privileges to physicians for its continuing duty to ensure that those physicians had and maintained the required medical malpractice liability insurance or have posted a suitable letter of credit that conformed with the statutory requirement. View "Jarrell v. Kaul" on Justia Law

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A family-care physician prescribed a powerful medication to treat a patient who suffered from chronic back pain. The patient was known to abuse alcohol and drugs. The complaint alleged that the physician breached the governing duty of care by failing to protect the patient from self-injury. The issue this appeal presented to the Supreme Court centered on the jury’s no-cause verdict and various portions of the trial court's charge on causation. The trial court charged the jury on "preexisting disease or condition" (a "Scafidi" charge). The trial court, however, never identified in its jury charge the preexisting condition or related the facts to the law as required by the Model Jury Charge. Furthermore, this case did not involve the ineluctable progression of a disease on its own. "The ultimate harm caused to the patient was from her own conduct - whether volitional or not - after the physician prescribed the [patch]." For that reason, the court also charged the jury on superseding/intervening causation and avoidable consequences. In a split decision, the Appellate Division overturned the verdict and remanded for a new trial, finding that the trial court erred in giving the Scafidi charge and failed to articulate for the jury the nature of the preexisting condition or explain the proofs and parties' arguments in relation to the law. The panel majority also determined that the court should not have given a superseding/intervening cause charge because the general charge on foreseeability was sufficient. Additionally, it pointed out that the court had mistakenly included the concept of "but for" causation in a case involving concurrent causes. The Supreme Court agreed with the panel majority that the trial court misapplied the Scafidi charge and that the trial court failed to explain the complex concepts of causation in relation to the proofs and legal theories advanced by the parties. The Court disagreed with the panel majority that the charge on superseding/intervening causation was unnecessary in light of the general charge on foreseeability, and concluded the "but for" causation reference apparently was mistake to which no objection was made by either party. The Court therefore affirmed and modified the Appellate Division's and remanded the case for a new trial. View "Komlodi v. Picciano" on Justia Law

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Under the New Jersey Affidavit of Merit statute, plaintiff in a medical malpractice action must provide an affidavit from an equivalently credentialed physician attesting that there is a reasonable probability that the defendant physician’s treatment fell outside acceptable professional standards. Plaintiff Robert Buck sued defendant Dr. James Henry, who had diagnosed Buck as suffering from depression and insomnia and prescribed an anti-depressant and a sleep aid. Plaintiff alleged that Dr. Henry failed to properly treat him. In March 2009, Plaintiff provided an affidavit of merit signed by Dr. Larry Kirstein, a licensed psychiatrist, who concluded that Dr. Henry’s treatment fell outside acceptable standards. In April 2009, due to a clerical error, the trial court mistakenly issued an order stating that “all issues involving the Affidavit of Merit statute have been addressed” and “there is no need” for a Ferreira conference. Dr. Henry moved for summary judgment, claiming that the affidavits were not from equivalent specialists. The court found that Dr. Henry was a family-medicine specialist based on his certification and, thus, Plaintiff was required to obtain an affidavit from a specialist in family medicine. The court therefore granted Dr. Henry’s motion and dismissed the case with prejudice. The Appellate Division affirmed. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate and trial courts and remanded a Ferreira conference. The Court found Plaintiff acted in good faith in filing affidavits of merit from two different medical specialists; and if the conference had been conducted as required and the trial court found deficiencies, Plaintiff would have had additional time to submit an affidavit that conformed to the merit statute. View "Buck v. Henry" on Justia Law