Surviving Widow Pursues Appeal in Medical Malpractice Case Against Tennessee Hospital

There are many kinds of damages that may arise out of a personal injury case, from medical expenses to malpractice to lost income, to compensate for the loss of a family member. In a March 29, 2017 case before the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, the matter on review concerned a health care liability action brought by the surviving wife of a patient against the hospital that treated him. After the death of her husband, the plaintiff filed a claim against the hospital, alleging that his death was a result of negligent medical treatment. Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in several of its evidentiary rulings and jury instructions.

In 2008, the deceased party in the case had fallen over 20 feet while working on a roof and suffered critical injuries, including multiple broken bones and extensive internal bleeding. His injuries necessitated a month-long stay in the intensive care unit at the defendant’s hospital. The patient was discharged to a rehabilitation facility, but he returned to the hospital several times over the following months for additional treatment. Having undergone multiple tracheotomies, he continued to experience breathing difficulties and was scheduled for another surgery. Sadly, he collapsed and died on the day before the scheduled surgery. His wife, as his widow and the administrator of his estate, filed a health care liability action against the defendant, alleging that its doctors were negligent in treating her husband’s injuries and that their negligence caused his death.

On appeal, the plaintiff first argued that the trial court improperly excluded email communications between two former doctors on hearsay grounds. The appeals court found no error since the plaintiff attempted to use the out of court statements to prove her claim of medical negligence and did not fit them into any hearsay exception while noting that she was allowed to use the evidence as a prior inconsistent statement. The court also found no error by the trial court in overruling the plaintiff’s objections to the defendant’s cross-examination of her expert witness, which involved 3D models of the patient’s CT scans. The appeals court explained that the stipulation provided to the jury regarding the accuracy of the model adequately cured any doubt that may have arisen during cross-examination. The court went on to rule that the defendant’s closing arguments were not inappropriate, nor did they affect the jury’s verdict for the defense.

The next points on appeal concerned the jury instructions. The appeals court concluded that the plaintiff’s request for a missing evidence instruction was properly denied since the plaintiff did not demonstrate that the defendant possessed the document at issue and failed to produce it. Finally, the court ruled that the special verdict form regarding causation was appropriate to address each of the plaintiff’s theories of recovery. In so ruling, the jury’s verdict was affirmed.

If you have suffered an injury as a result of negligent medical care, consulting with a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer can help you determine your legal recourse. The Nashville injury attorneys at MHPS have assisted plaintiffs in taking legal action against careless individuals and businesses for many years. To discuss your personal injury case with a dedicated member of our team, contact our office by phone at (615) 800-7096 or through our website.

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