In an effort to weed out meritless claims while encouraging settlement, many states require plaintiffs alleging medical malpractice to first present their case to a Medical Review Panel prior to the case progressing to the trial stage of litigation. Usually the panel is made up of at least three impartial people who review presented evidence. At the conclusion of the proceeding, a finding is rendered as to whether or not the panel believes that the merits of the claim warrant a trial. While the decision is not usually binding, the finding can help spark settlement negotiations while also giving both sides a preview of how a trial may go.
Recently, an interesting question came to light in an Indiana medical malpractice case. Is a plaintiff permitted to present evidence at trial that was not presented at the initial Medical Review Panel proceeding?
The plaintiff, Billy Turner, filed a medical malpractice action based upon claims that Dr. Charles McKeen failed to meet the appropriate standard of care when treating his wife, Rowena, and that the negligence caused her death.
During the Medical Review Panel proceeding, Mr. Turner presented his late wife’s medical records, and a narrative statement describing the records and alleging the delay in exploratory surgery following his late wife’s re-admission to the hospital caused her death.
The Medical Review Panel found for the defendant and Mr. Turner took the case to trial.
At trial, Mr. Turner added a witness that was not listed during the initial Medical Review Panel proceeding. The witness was a hematologist who would testify that the defendant had failed to prescribe the appropriate dosage of medication, ultimately leading to Rowena’s death.
The defendant moved to strike the new witness’ opinion based upon the fact that the submission to the Medical Review Panel did not allege malpractice relating to the medication dosage and so the plaintiff should not be permitted to pursue the claim at trial. The trial court denied the motion and allowed the testimony. The defendant appealed.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling, stating that the plaintiff was allowed to raise new theories of alleged malpractice during litigation following the Medical Review Panel proceeding. The case then moved to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court cited Miller v. Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Inc. which agreed that new theories could be brought to trial even if they were not presented at the initial panel proceeding.
Medical malpractice can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. If you have been injured by a physician’s neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.