Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice
by
While Defendant was performing laparoscopic surgery to remove Plaintiff's left ovary, Plaintiff's bowel was perforated. Plaintiff required a colostomy to repair the perforation. Plaintiff filed a claim alleging medical malpractice against Defendant and others. At trial, Plaintiff presented the expert testimony of a medical doctor who testified that the actions of Defendant were negligent. After Plaintiff rested, the circuit court granted Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. Plaintiff appealed, asserting that her expert's testimony was sufficient to satisfy the locality rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff's expert's testimony regarding the standard of care in the same or similar locality was insufficient to create a question of fact on this issue; and (2) accordingly, the circuit court did not err in granting Defendant's motion for directed verdict. View "Plymate v. Martinelli" on Justia Law

by
On May 2, 2011, Appellant filed a complaint alleging medical malpractice against Appellees. That same day, in accordance with the law at that time, the circuit court issued summonses stating that Appellees had twenty days after service of the complaint to file an answer. On June 2, 2011, after the summonses had been issued but before Appellees were served, the Supreme Court amended its rules to provide that all defendants have thirty days after service of the complaint to file an answer. The Court stated that the amendment would be effective July 1, 2011. One appellee (Dudding) was served on July 28, 2011, and another (Goodman) on August 9, 2011. Dudding filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the summons was defective and the statute of limitations had expired. Goodman filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that process was defective because the summons served upon him indicated that he had twenty days, rather than thirty days, to file a responsive pleading. The circuit court granted both motions, concluding that the summonses were defective when served, and dismissed the complaint as time-barred. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the rule change did not invalidate summonses issued before July 1, 2011. View "May v. Coleman" on Justia Law

by
Appellant Diane Ausman, the administrator of the Estate of Daniel Ausman, filed a complaint on August 24, 2009 against a geriatric center and doctor, alleging, among other claims, medical negligence and negligence. Shortly after the suit was filed, Appellant passed away. The attorneys representing Appellant did not learn of her death until May 2011. As a result, the attorneys filed a motion for a continuance of the trial, which was scheduled to begin on July 11, 2011. The parties disputed whether the one-year statute of limitations found in Ark. Code Ann. 16-62-108 was applicable where a special administrator of an estate dies during the pendency of litigation or whether the matter was simply governed by Ark. R. Civ. P. 25's requirement for substitution of parties. The circuit court dismissed the case with prejudice, finding that the Estate improperly failed to revive the action within one year from the date of Appellant's death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Estate's failure to move for substitution within one year from the time of Appellant's death prevented the revivor of the action. View "Ausman v. Hiram Shaddox Geriatric Ctr." on Justia Law

by
Appellees Edgar and Clara Shelton filed a complaint against St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, Catholic Health Initiatives (collectively, Appellants) and Golden Living Center, alleging negligence, medical malpractice, and violations of the Arkansas Long Term Care Resident's Rights Statute for Edgar's treatment while he was a patient at the facilities. Golden Living was dismissed from the suit after a settlement. Appellants subsequently filed a cross-claim and third-party complaint against Golden Living. The circuit court struck Appellants' cross-claim and third-party complaint, finding that Appellants did not have a claim or cause of action against Golden Living. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in striking Appellants' third-party complaint; and (2) the dismissal of Appellants' third-party complaint did not operate to prevent Appellants from presenting to the jury potential evidence of Golden Living's responsibility for a portion of Edgar's injuries. View "St. Vincent Infirmary Med. Ctr. v. Shelton" on Justia Law

by
When Cody Metheny underwent brain surgery, the physician (Doctor) mistakenly operated on the wrong side of his brain. Fifteen months later, Cody's parents (the Methenys) learned tissue had been removed from the wrong side of Cody's brain. The Methenys filed a direct-action suit, alleging medical negligence on the part of Hospital where Doctor practiced and against Hospital's liability-insurance carrier (Insurer). The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Methenys. Insurer appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in (1) failing to instruct the jury in a manner that would allow it to apportion liability among it and certain physicians who were sued in a prior case but ultimately settled; (2) refusing to allow Insurer to present evidence of fault attributable to the settling physicians; and (3) denying Insurer's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict where the evidence supporting Cody's future damages was based on improperly bundled calculations. The Methenys cross-appealed the circuit court's order reducing the jury's verdict from $20 million to $11 million. The Supreme Court affirmed on direct appeal and cross-appeal, holding that the circuit court did not err in its judgment. View "ProAssurance Indem. Co. v. Metheny" on Justia Law

by
Appellants, several individuals and the administratrix of the estate of Arvilla Langston, filed a medical-malpractice action against Appellees, Sparks Regional Medical Center (SRMC) and Sparks Medical Foundation, alleging that Langston died as the result of SRMC's alleged failure to properly care for, diagnose, and treat Langston. Appellees filed an amended answer, and the circuit court dismissed the case on the grounds of charitable immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in failing to strike the amended answer. On remand, the circuit court granted summary judgment to Appellees. Appellants subsequently filed an amended complaint attempting to raise a pre-death claim not pled in the initial complaint. Appellants filed a motion for reconsideration and new trial. The circuit court denied Appellants' motion for reconsideration and new trial and granted SRMC's motion to strike Appellants' amended complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's ruling, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment; (2) Appellants' failed to preserve for appeal their argument that the circuit court erred in failing to rule on a loss-of-chance theory of recovery; and (3) the circuit court did not manifestly abuse its discretion in striking Appellants' amended complaint. View "Neal v. Sparks Reg'l Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

by
In this nursing-home, abuse-and-neglect complaint, Appellants, the licensee of the nursing home where Richard Hatchett was a resident, its management company, and the owner of both entities were sued for wrongful death, negligence, and breach of fiduciary and confidential duty. The complaint averred that the actions or inactions of Appellants caused Hatchett's death. Appellants filed timely answers, but the circuit court struck part of Appellants' answers as a sanction for discovery violations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in striking part of the answer, as (1) Appellants' failure to comply with discovery requests and orders was sufficient to impose discovery sanctions; and (2) the scope of the sanctions was appropriate. View "Lake Village Healthcare Ctr., LLC v. Hatchett" on Justia Law

by
Appellant Harrill & Sutter filed a complaint in the circuit court alleging a violation of Arkansas's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Appellant had previously filed a medical-malpractice action against three physicians, who were employed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Mariam Hopkins was hired to represent the physicians. Appellant subsequently filed a FOIA request asserting that because Hopkins represented public employees, Hopkins's file was a public record. Hopkins refused to allow Appellant to inspect the file, and Appellant filed the present case. The circuit court found (1) Hopkins, her firm, and the physicians were not the custodians for the FOIA request to UAMS or to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees; (2) Appellees did not have administrative control of the public records of those entities; (3) the records sought by Appellant were not public records under FOIA and, therefore, were not subject to a FOIA request; and (4) the litigation files and documents sought by the FOIA request were subject to attorney-client privilege and were work-product. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that FOIA did not apply. View "Harrill & Sutter, PLLC v. Farrar" on Justia Law

by
Ketan Bulsara filed a medical-malpractice and wrongful-death action against Dr. Julia Watkins stemming from the stillbirth of his child. A jury returned a judgment in favor of Dr. Watkins. The trial court subsequently denied Bulsara's motion for new trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in denying Bulsara's motion for a new trial where Bulsara demonstrated a reasonable possibility of prejudice in light of defense counsel's continued representation of Dr. Watkins after the filing of Bulsara's lawsuit while in possession of confidential information from an expert who previously consulted with Bulsara and his former counsel, in contravention of the Court's rules. View "Bulsara v. Watkins" on Justia Law

by
Appellants, Little Rock Healthcare (LRHC), a nursing care facility; Donald Bedell, the sole member of the governing body for LRHC; and Heartland Personnel Leasing, appealed from a judgment in favor of Appellee Brenda Williams, as personal representative of the Estate of Minnie Valentine, who died after being discharged from LRHC. The Supreme Court reversed, dismissing Bedell and remanding for a new trial as to LRHC and Heartland, holding (1) the circuit court erred by denying Bedell's directed-verdict motion and judgment notwithstanding the verdict as Bedell owed no personal duty to Valentine; and (2) the circuit court erred in excluding Valentine's post discharge medical evidence, which error was prejudicial and warranted a new trial. View "Bedell v. Williams" on Justia Law