Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice
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In this wrongful death action, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Mercy Hospital Joplin due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed Mercy Hospital.On appeal, Plaintiffs conceded that the statute of limitations had run prior to the filing of their claim against Mercy Hospital. Plaintiffs, however, argued that the one-year savings statute that applies to nonsuits applied in this case because they had taken nonsuit against Mercy Hospital less than one year before filing the instant action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs did not suffer a nonsuit against Mercy Hospital but, rather, substituted Mercy Clinic, LLC under Rule 55.33(c) in place of Mercy Hospital even though the limitations period had already expired; (2) Plaintiffs' substitution of Mercy Clinic in place of Mercy Hospital was not a nonsuit entitling them to the benefit of the one-year savings provision; and (3) therefore, the action against Mercy Hospital was time barred. View "Sofia v. Dodson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiffs' medical malpractice action, holding that the uncontested facts showed that Plaintiffs' medical malpractice action was time barred.On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the circuit court erred because genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether their medical malpractice action was timely because the continuing care doctrine applied to toll the two-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court rejected Plaintiffs' argument, holding that the uncontroverted material facts established that Plaintiffs' action was time barred. View "Newton v. Mercy Clinic East Communities" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding in favor of Plaintiffs on their negligent credentialing claim against Defendant, St. Luke's Surgicenter-Lee's Summit LLC, holding that Plaintiffs failed to make a submissible case of negligent credentialing.In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant negligently granted a surgeon operating out of St. Luke's Surgicenter in Lee's Summit staff privileges at its hospital. After a jury trial, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the circuit court erred in overruling Defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because Plaintiffs failed to make a submissible case of negligent credentialing. View "Tharp v. St. Luke's Surgicenter-Lee's Summit, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this medical negligence action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment against Plaintiffs following a jury verdict in favor of Defendants, holding that the circuit court did not commit reversible error when it refused to allow Plaintiffs' counsel additional voir dire time so he could ask the "insurance question" after counsel forgot to ask it during his initial voir dire.In Ivy v. Hawk, 878 S.W.2d 442 (Mo. banc 1994), the Court held that a party has the right to ask the insurance question during voir dire if the proper procedure is used so as to avoid unduly highlighting the question. The Supreme Court noted, however, that Ivy did not divest the circuit court of its discretion to control the proper form and timing of voir dire questioning, including discretion as to whether counsel's proposed procedure would unduly highlight the question. The Court then affirmed, holding that because Plaintiffs' counsel forgot to ask the insurance question during multiple hours of voir dire, the court acted within its discretion in finding it would unduly highlight the question to allow counsel to recommence his questioning to ask the insurance question after voir dire had otherwise concluded. View "Eoff v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court against St. Luke’s Surgicenter-Lee’s Summit LLC on a negligent credentialing claim brought by Thomas and Paula Tharp, holding that the Tharps failed to make a submissible case of negligent credentialing.Thomas Tharp suffered injuries when a surgeon operating out of St. Luke’s damaged his hepatic duct and common bile duct. The Tharps filed suit against the surgeon and St. Luke’s and then settled with the surgeon. The Tharps proceeded to trial against St. Luke’s on the claim that St. Luke’s negligently granted the surgeon staff privileges at its hospital. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Tharps, and the circuit court entered judgment in favor of the Tharps. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support the Tharps’s negligent credentialing claim. View "Tharp v. St. Luke's Surgicenter-Lee's Summit, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s judgment in favor of Emilee Williams in this medical malpractice action brought against Mercy Clinic Springfield Communities and Dr. Elene Pilapil, holding that the circuit court improperly deprived Williams of the full value of the jury’s award and erred in striking post-judgment interest.After a jury returned a verdict in favor of Williams the circuit court entered judgment on the verdict for a total amount of $28,911,000. The court then allocated a portion of the future medical damages to periodic payments in accordance with Mo. Rev. Stat. 538.220.2. The Supreme Court remanded the case for entry of a new judgment in accordance with this opinion, holding (1) the application of section 538.220.2 was unconstitutional as applied to Williams because it deprived Williams of the full value of the award and violated her due process rights; and (2) the circuit court did not have the authority to amend the judgment to remove post-judgment interest. View "Williams v. Mercy Clinic Springfield Communities" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Defendant in this wrongful death medical negligence action, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion.Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant negligently caused the death of their mother when he perforated her bowel during a hernia repair surgery and failed to recognize and properly treat the bowel. The jury returned a verdict for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err by permitting Defendant to testify regarding a new causation opinion - different from the opinion he gave during his deposition - for the first time at trial; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it permitted cumulative evidence from Defendant’s expert witnesses. View "Shallow v. Follwell" on Justia Law

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Here, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision in Mahoney v. Doerhoff Surgical Services, Inc., 807 S.W.2d 503 (Mo. 1991), upholding the constitutional validity of Mo. Rev. Stat. 538.225’s requirement of an affidavit stating the plaintiff has the opinion of a legally qualified medical provider on the issues of breach of the standard of care and causation of damages in medical malpractice actions.Appellant appealed the dismissal of her medical malpractice case without prejudice for failure to file an affidavit of merit under section 538.225, arguing that the statute’s affidavit requirement violates Missouri’s open courts provision, her right to trial by jury, and the principle of separation of powers under the Missouri Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court and reaffirmed the constitutional validity of requiring an affidavit from a qualified health care provider. View "Hink v. Helfrich" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted mandamus relief to Relator, who sought to resign, revoke, or withdraw the circuit court’s medical authorization order authorizing the release of the decedent’s medical records, holding that the medical authorization order in this case was prohibited by this court’s precedent.Relator filed a wrongful death action against Defendants after his brother, the decedent, died allegedly from metastatic colon cancer. During discovery, Defendants sought an order from the circuit court authorizing the release of the decedent’s medical records. The circuit court signed an order authorizing the release of medical records. Relator then petitioned for this writ to prohibit the use of the decedent’s unlimited medical records. The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition, holding that the medical authorization was prohibited because there was no case-by-case review of the medical authorization designed to tailor the requests to the pleadings. View "State ex rel. Fennewald v. Honorable Patricia S. Joyce" on Justia Law

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The trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing prospective juror 24 to serve on the jury in this medical negligence case.Following a jury trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of defendant hospitals. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by failing to strike for cause juror 24 because she expressed a disqualifying bias in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by finding, without additional questioning, that prospective juror 24 was not disqualified because she was successfully rehabilitated when the entire voir dire was considered, including her later statement that she could follow the trial court’s instructions. View "Thomas v. Mercy Hospitals East Communities" on Justia Law