Temple v. Mary Washington Hospital: On Discovery Motions in Medical Malpractice Cases

Temple v. Mary Washington Hospital, a case from the Supreme Court of Virginia, involved a medical malpractice case filed in the name of decedent. According to court records, decedent went to defendant’s emergency room complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. Four hours after getting to the hospital, he was deceased.

ekg-293359-m.jpgAfter filing the personal injury case, plaintiff, through counsel, requested certain discovery from defendant. Included in these requests were copies of defendant’s policies and procedure related to how a patient in decedent’s condition should be treated by hospital staff. Defendant responded to plaintiff’s requests for production of documents, claiming these documents were not relevant to the lawsuit and were privileged documents.

Plaintiff filed a motion to compel discovery, requesting that the trial judge order defendant to produce the requested documents. The trial judge found that these documents were not relevant, as they would not lead to discoverable evidence, agreed that they were privileged, and denied the motion.

Plaintiff filed another motion to compel discovery, requesting that the trial court order defendants to produce a laboratory reference manual on testing result ranges for measuring a protein associated with cardiac damage. Defendant claimed that a manufacturer’s document already produced was the only document responsive to this request. The trial court agreed and denied this second motion to compel discovery.
While not stated in the opinion, the likely reason that plaintiff wanted this information is because, if it could show that defendant did not follow its own practices and policies, it could be used to show that defendant acted negligently.

Our Anderson, South Carolina wrongful death attorneys understand that these types of actions will require extensive pretrial litigation involving the discovery process.
Prior to trial, plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the complaint and then later filed new complaint against defendant with the same allegations. The trial court entered an order that all discovery already produced shall be incorporated into the new action. At trial, the jury found for defendants.

Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial and a motion to reconsider the prior evidentiary rulings. The trial court denied the motions, and plaintiff appealed.

Defendant argued that the appeal should be dismissed, because plaintiff had not made a motion to compel in the second case, and that only the discovery was incorporated into the new trial and the not the previous discovery motions.

The court agreed that the judge’s order of incorporation did not include the procedural history. The reason for this was because the term discovery refers to the documents produced, depositions taken, and answers to requests for admission and interrogatories. The court noted that, under the relevant state statue, when plaintiff accepts a voluntary nonsuit, any case that is brought after the dismissal is treated as a new case, and all prior rulings and motions are not made part of the new case, absent an express order by the court.

Once the court found that the trial court’s order did not include the prior motions, the issue was not preserved for appeal because the motions were not raised at trial. As a result of this, the court did not have jurisdiction to review the claims or error on the merits and affirmed the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motions for a new trial and reconsideration.

Contact the Anderson personal injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Temple v. Mary Washington Hospital, September 12, 2014, Supreme Court of Virginia
More Blog Entries:

Reducing Medication Errors in Nursing Homes, March 12, 2014, Anderson Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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