Earlier this month, an appellate court in Oklahoma issued a written opinion in a car accident case brought by a passenger who was involved in an accident against the driver’s insurance company. Specifically, the court had to determine if the lower court was proper in granting the defendant’s motions for summary judgment based on the fact that it did not act in bad faith when it questioned the reasonableness of the medical care the plaintiff received.

PaperworkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident while a passenger in her mother’s car. According to the facts as described in the appellate opinion, a driver ran through a stop sign and struck the plaintiff’s mother’s vehicle. After the accident, the plaintiff was taken to the hospital. She was initially taken to the emergency room, and then was transferred to the “L2 trauma center.” She was discharged four hours later with a cervical collar, but was not provided a prescription for pain medication. The plaintiff continued to receive outpatient treatment for her injuries.

The plaintiff later filed a claim under the uninsured/underinsured motorist provision of her mother’s insurance policy. She requested a total of roughly $67,000. Of that sum, $24,420 was incurred from the treatment that the plaintiff received at the L2 trauma center. The insurance company denied coverage for any charges arising from treatment in the L2 trauma center, claiming that such treatment was unnecessary. In support of its position, the insurance company consulted with an expert who stated that the plaintiff did not need to be transferred to the L2 trauma center.

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All personal injury plaintiffs must follow strict procedural rules when filing their case. However, medical malpractice cases in particular are subject to a different set of rules that, if ignored, may result in the early dismissal of an otherwise meritorious case. For example, medical malpractice cases in Maryland must be accompanied by a “Certificate of Merit.” A certificate of merit is a document filled out by a medical professional in the field of the alleged negligence, stating that there is a valid basis for the plaintiff’s case.

Exam RoomIn addition, Maryland medical malpractice cases are required to be brought with a certain period of time. In most cases, this is within three years of the alleged act of negligence. However, if a patient does not discover their injury until a later date, the patient has up to five years to file their case. In any event, the procedural rules in Maryland medical malpractice cases can be burdensome for plaintiffs and may even result in the dismissal of cases.

Doctors and hospitals are aware of these strict rules, and they may try to characterize any case even tangentially involving a doctor or hospital as a medical malpractice case in hopes of creating additional difficulties for the plaintiff. A recent case illustrates how a slip-and-fall accident was characterized as a medical malpractice case by a state appellate court.

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In a recent case before a state appellate court, a plaintiff’s premises liability claim against a fast-food restaurant manager was dismissed based on the plaintiff’s failure to present sufficient evidence that the manager’s negligence resulted in her injuries. In rejecting the plaintiff’s claims, the court explained that a plaintiff must present evidence more than “mere speculation” as to how her injury occurred.

Water on FloorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell as she was entering a fast-food restaurant managed by the defendant. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the restaurant’s entrance consists of a set of double doors. On her way into the restaurant, the plaintiff made it through the first set of doors without a problem, but she was unable to open the second set of doors. She testified that she was shaking the door, trying to get it to open, when she fell.

After her fall, she noticed that the ground around her was damp and that a rug in the foyer area where she fell was wet. However, when asked, she could not remember exactly what happened in the moments before her fall. Specifically, she stated that “it just happened so fast . . . I just remember pushing on the door, and the next thing I remember is just sitting there.”

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Earlier last month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that illustrates how important it is for parties to object to perceived errors as they occur. In the recent case, the court held that a defendant hospital’s failure to object to the plaintiff’s untimely payment of a mandatory filing fee prevented the court from reviewing the defendant’s claim on appeal that the untimely payment deprived the court of jurisdiction.

Wall ClockThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a man who had become quadriplegic and then died after being treated at the defendant hospital. Initially, the man himself brought a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging that the hospital was responsible for his quadriplegia. However, while the jury determined that the hospital was negligent in treating the man, it also found that the hospital’s negligence was not the cause of the man’s quadriplegia.

Shortly after the initial trial, the man died. After his death, additional evidence was discovered indicating that the hospital’s negligence may have actually been the cause of the man’s quadriplegia and subsequent death. The current plaintiff was then named the plaintiff, and the case was changed to a wrongful death case. As a part of this process, the plaintiff was required to pay court filing costs by a certain date.

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Earlier this month, a jury awarded a Georgia doctor $7 million in a premises liability lawsuit brought against the hospital where the doctor sustained a career-ending head injury after falling to the ground after slipping off a rolling stool. According to one local news report covering the case, the doctor alleged that the hospital provided an unsafe rolling stool in the operating room where the fall occurred.

Operating RoomThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a doctor who had performed thousands of surgeries at the defendant hospital. On the day of the accident, the plaintiff had just finished with a surgery and sat down to complete the post-op paperwork. However, as he sat on the rolling stool provided by the hospital, the stool shot out from under him, causing him to fall to the floor.

The doctor hit his head on the floor but initially seemed fine. It was not until hours later that he started to become nauseous and then started experiencing double vision. Later, he began to have seizures. He was hospitalized for several days and eventually tried to return to work. However, since he was routinely suffering from seizures, he had to close down his practice. The doctor was later diagnosed with trauma-induced epilepsy and continues to suffer from cognitive and memory problems, migraine headaches, and seizures.

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Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a woman who was seriously injured when a glass shower door at the defendant’s hotel shattered, covering her naked body in shards of glass. In the case, the court reversed a lower court’s decision that denied the plaintiff the opportunity to seek punitive damages from the hotel chain. The court held that the issues that needed to be resolved in order to determine whether punitive damages were appropriate should have been determined by the jury, rather than the trial judge.

Shower HeadThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and her sister were staying at one of the defendant’s hotels. The plaintiff was exiting the shower when the glass shower door exploded, causing her serious injuries. After the accident, a hotel employee came to the room and told the sisters that several rooms had this problem, and it was caused by the shower door coming off its runners. The employee explained that the room was on a “do not sell” list, and the sister should check and see if her shower door had the same problem. The sister checked, and indeed, her shower door was also off its runner.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the hotel chain, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Evidence was presented showing that the hotel knew about the problems with the doors, and had at one point taken the rooms off the list of available rooms. However, for an unknown reason the sisters’ hotel rooms ended up back on the available room list. There was also evidence presented that the door in the plaintiff’s room had previously shattered and been replaced.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a boy who died while in the defendant teacher’s classroom. In the case, Barnett v. Atlanta Independent School System, the court held that a teacher’s decision on how to supervise and control students is a discretionary action that is entitled to government immunity. As a result of the ruling, the boy’s parents will not be able to seek compensation for the loss of their son.

ClassroomA Student Falls While the Teacher Is Out of the Classroom

Antoine Williams was a seventh-grade student in the defendant’s American Literature class. One afternoon, Williams’ teacher stepped out of the room for a period of about 30 minutes. Before she left, she asked a neighboring teacher to “listen in” on her class to make sure the students were okay. During that time, Williams and another boy were horse-playing when Williams fell to the ground, fracturing his collarbone. When Williams’ teacher returned, Williams was lying on the ground unconscious. The teacher called 911, and Williams was taken to the hospital. Sadly, Williams died from a loss of blood caused by the fractured collarbone.

The school’s principal called the teacher into his office to discuss what had occurred. During the initial discussion, the teacher lied, claiming that she was in the classroom at the time of Williams’ fall. The principal determined this was not the case and confronted the teacher about her misrepresentation. She then offered a series of other reasons as to why she was not present. During a pre-trial deposition, the teacher changed her story yet again, this time claiming that she was using the restroom. It was verified, however, that she did ask the neighboring teacher to listen in on her class.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nevada issued a written opinion affirming the reversal of a $1.2 million jury verdict in favor of a wrongful death plaintiff after a lower court determined that the plaintiff’s attorney committed fraud on the court. In the case, Adams v. Fallini, the court upheld the lower court’s decision to reverse the verdict, based on statements made in court documents that were known to be untrue when they were made.

Cow's FaceThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the mother of a man who was killed when he struck a cow while driving on a Nevada highway. In Nevada, there is an “open range” law that prevents a farm owner from being held liable if one of his animals causes a traffic accident while in an area specifically designated as an open range.

After her son’s death, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant, who owned the animal that caused the accident. The defendant’s attorney failed to respond to the allegations, and judgment was entered for the plaintiff in the amount of $1.2 million. Once the defendant realized her attorney failed to participate in the case, the defendant sought reconsideration, but that request was denied.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in New York issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that required the court to discuss the foreseeability element of the plaintiff’s claim and determine if the plaintiff’s injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s alleged negligence. Ultimately, in the case, Hain v. Jamison, the court determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligence and allowed the plaintiff’s case to continue toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Calf in a FieldThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case is the surviving husband of a woman who was struck and killed by a passing car while she was attempting to rescue an escaped calf belonging to the defendant. After his wife’s death, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against both the driver of the car that struck his wife as well as the farm that owned the calf. Specific to the farm owner, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s negligence in allowing the calf to escape and failing to return it to the farm was a proximate cause of his wife’s death.

In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the farm owner sought dismissal of the case against him on the basis that any alleged negligence in allowing the calf to escape was too remote a cause of death to establish liability. The trial court disagreed, denying the motion.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a woman who claimed that she was injured after the defendant ran her off the road. In the case, Long v. Arnold, the court affirmed the court’s decision below, ultimately upholding the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant.

Car Off RoadThe Facts of the Case

Long was driving her car when Arnold turned onto the road, cutting Long off. Long was traveling at approximately 10 miles per hour at the time, and she was forced to steer the car off the road and into a small ditch. Long’s vehicle slowed as it came into contact with some road-side brush and eventually came to a complete stop without ever contacting a solid stationary object.

Initially, Long did not notice any injury. However, two days later, she began to feel sore. She then filed a personal injury lawsuit, seeking compensation for her injury, medical expenses, economic loss, loss of enjoyment of life, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.

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