In any personal injury lawsuit, it’s important to have a skilled lawyer for several reasons. The first is that while the truth most assuredly matters, what also matters is what is provable. Ensuring that important evidence is timely admitted or that harmful evidence is suppressed if possible is imperative. Understanding and adhering to the procedural guidelines is critical.
In medical malpractice lawsuits in particular, there is often so much at stake. These cases are complex and time-consuming and require detailed testimony from numerous expert witnesses. You don’t want to invest that kind of time, only to have efforts fail based on a procedural technicality. You need a lawyer and a law firm committed to being detail-oriented.
A medical malpractice lawsuit out of California shows what can happen when attorneys on both sides fail to mind important procedural details. This was a case in which plaintiff was rendered quadriplegic after being admitted as a patient at the defendant hospital. The hospital argued that while it was negligent in plaintiff’s treatment, this was not the cause of his quadriplegia. Plaintiff later died. The matter before the California Supreme Court was whether a motion for a new trial was timely filed and also whether the objection to that motion was timely filed. The answer to both questions was no, but the defendant’s failure to timely object to plaintiff’s late motion for a new trial meant that the case would be scheduled for a re-trial.
According to court records, plaintiff sued the hospital in October 2012 after alleging he was mishandled by an occupational therapist after undergoing a surgical procedure. This mistake, he alleged, caused internal bleeding and spinal shock. His condition deteriorated rapidly into quadriplegia.
The medical malpractice lawsuit proceeded to trial, and in February 2013 the jury returned a special verdict opining that the hospital was negligent in caring for plaintiff, but that this negligence was not a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s crippling condition.
Shortly after that verdict was handed down, plaintiff died. The court substituted his widow as the plaintiff. A few weeks later, plaintiff filed a notice of intent to move for a new trial, asserting she had only recently discovered new material evidence. Both parties allowed for a 20-day extension, which gave the filing deadline as April 1st. However, this was a court holiday. On April 2, plaintiff served the hospital and attempted to file the motion for a new trial. The basis for this motion was that an autopsy found that a mass on decedent’s spine that had caused his deterioration into quadriplegia was not a “tumor,” as the hospital had alleged, but rather a traumatic neuroma, which would be consistent with plaintiff’s allegation of injury during his post-surgery hospital stay.
The memo filed on April 2 was not accompanied by the requisite filing fee. Two days later, the clerk of court canceled the original time stamp and didn’t process the submission. However, before that time stamp was canceled, plaintiff was able to obtain a hearing for a new trial motion.
Defendant hospital responded with numerous evidentiary objections. However, defendant did not specifically object to the timing of the filing.
The trial court held the hearing and granted plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, noting the new evidence could not have been discovered prior to trial.
The hospital appealed. In its appeal, it noted for the first time that plaintiff’s expert witness affidavits weren’t timely filed. Ultimately, the court held that this was true. But it was also true that defendant couldn’t bring this up for the first time on appeal.
The appellate court affirmed, as did the state supreme court.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Kabran v. Sharp Memorial Hospital, Jan. 19, 2017, California Supreme Court
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