Medical Malpractice Attorney Jacksonville FL: Jury could not include man’s negligence in verdict

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Medical Malpractice Attorney Jacksonville FL: Medical Negligence occurred after man’s own negligence, therefore jury could not include man’s negligence in verdict

Medical malpractice attorney Jacksonville FL deal with cases similar to this. Recently, a man sued a hospital for negligence and medical malpractice. The complaint alleged that, given his history of frequent seizures, the hospital was negligent in permitting him to have coffee in the ER. The complaint contended that the hospital’s employees exacerbated his injuries and failed to comply with accepted standards of care by failing to remove his clothes and cool his skin immediately after the coffee spill and by discharging him prematurely.

At trial the man’s expert in emergency medicine testified that the man was improperly discharged without an appropriate assessment and treatment plan, and that the hospital should have transferred him to a burn center. This serves as a just prompt to seek a medical malpractice attorney Jacksonville FL. The expert opined that the man’s pain would have been handled more effectively at a burn center and that its duration and severity were prolonged by the premature discharge. The man’s treating plastic surgeon testified that the risk of infection is generally increased when a burn patient’s admission to a burn center is delayed.  The hospital’s plastic surgeon expert testified that an earlier transfer to a burn center would not have affected the man’s ultimate outcome.  The plaintiff testified that he continued to experience pain after he was admitted to the burn center, throughout his treatment there, and following his release.

 Background: Plaintiff had sought treatment in the emergency room (ER) at a hospital. He was complaining of a history of recurrent seizures. After he was placed on an examination table, his father brought him a cup of coffee. The man experienced another seizure and the hot coffee spilled into his lap, burning him. Later that day, the plaintiff was admitted to the hospital.  Three days after admission, the plaintiff was examined and diagnosed as suffering from second degree burns. A plastic surgery consultation was requested and completed which confirmed the diagnosis – he had second and third degree burns.  The hospital discharged him the next day with instructions to seek further treatment from a physician within one week and from a plastic surgeon within two weeks.  Once the plastic surgeon who had treated him learned of the discharge instructions, he directed his staff to contact him to arrange an office visit so the man could be seen more promptly.  The visit occurred several days following discharge. The plastic surgeon recommended a referral to a burn center. The man subsequently underwent debridement and skin grafting surgery. As a result of his burn injuries, the man allegedly suffered permanent scarring, lost function, and continuing pain.

After the trial was completed, the jury was instructed that, if it determined that the hospital was negligent in causing the man’s injuries, then it must also determine whether any negligence on the man’s part contributed to causing the coffee spill.  The jury returned a verdict finding the hospital was not negligent for allowing the man to have coffee in the ER, but that the hospital deviated from accepted standards of care in treating the man’s burns. The jury found that the hospital’s deviation from the standard of care was a significant factor in causing the man’s injuries. The jury found that the hospital deviated from accepted standards of care in discharging the man prematurely, but that it was not a substantial factor in causing the man’s injuries. The jury found that the man was comparatively negligent in causing the coffee spill, and that his percentage of fault was 90%, while the hospital’s percentage of fault was 10%. The jury rendered an award of damages in the sum of $25,000 to the plaintiff for pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life, to the date of the verdict, with no award for future damages.

As expected, the plaintiff appealed. Medical malpractice attorney Jacksonville FL can help with this appeal. The Saratoga County Supreme Court denied the man’s motion to set aside the part of the verdict in favor of the hospital. 

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, Third Department, affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court held that the trial court did not err in denying the man’s motion to set aside the verdict because the jury’s finding that his premature discharge was not a substantial factor in causing him harm was not against the weight of the evidence and contrary to law, but the trial court erred in denying the man’s motion to set aside the verdict because the jury’s finding that he was comparatively negligent was against the weight of the evidence and contrary to law.  The trial court erred in denying the man’s motion to set aside the verdict because the jury’s finding that he was comparatively negligent was against the weight of the evidence and contrary to law. No comparative negligence instruction should be given when a plaintiff’s alleged negligence preceded the alleged medical malpractice and is not otherwise alleged to have contributed to the harm resulting from the malpractice. A plaintiff’s prior conduct is not relevant, since the defendant’s liability extends only to that portion of the plaintiff’s injuries attributable to the defendant’s malpractice. Here, although there was evidence from which the jury could have found that the man shared responsibility for the initial coffee spill, the hospital made no claim at trial that he had any such shared responsibility for the hospital’s subsequent deviations from the accepted standard of care in treating his injuries, nor was there any evidence adduced at trial from which the jury could have found that he shared such responsibility. The court found that the jury was neither instructed to limit its consideration of the man’s comparative negligence, nor that the hospital’s liability extended only to that portion of his injuries attributable to its malpractice. The jury was thus prevented from fairly considering the central issue of damages. The errors were further compounded by the failure to instruct the jury to determine the total amount of damages sustained by the man, undiminished by any percentage of fault to avoid juror confusion and the risk of a double reduction of the man’s recovery. The court found it impossible to determine whether the jury intended the amount that it awarded to represent the total damage award or the man’s 10% share following the erroneous apportionment of fault. Accordingly, the court held that the combined errors in the charge were fundamental, and that a new trial on the issue of the man’s damages was warranted in the interest of justice

 

See: Vallone v. Saratoga Hosp., 2016 WL 3748555 (N.Y.A.D. 3 Dept., July 14, 2016) (not designated for publication).

 Source: http://medicallawperspectives.com/Content_Weekly/Patient-Coffee-Spill-During-Seizure-Burn-Treatment-Negligence.aspx

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