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Massachusetts Court Discusses Sufficiency of Evidence at Medical Malpractice at Tribunal Hearings

In Massachusetts, medical malpractice cases are handled differently than other civil lawsuits, in that the plaintiff must first present evidence of the defendant’s malpractice to a tribunal which will determine if the plaintiff has proffered sufficient evidence of liability to allow a case to proceed. Recently, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts explained the tribunal’s role and standards in evaluating the evidence submitted by a plaintiff’s expert, in a case in which it reversed a dismissal of the plaintiff’s malpractice case. If you or a loved one suffered injuries or an illness because of negligent medical care you should speak with a seasoned Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding whether you may be able to recover compensation from the negligent care provider.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Decedent’s Treatment

Reportedly, the plaintiff’s decedent presented to the hospital when she was in labor. She underwent an emergency cesarean section and emergency hysterectomy. She died twenty-five hours later due to hemorrhagic shock and amniotic embolism. Her husband subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that the defendant doctors committed medical malpractice which resulted in the decedent’s death. A hearing was held in front of a medical malpractice tribunal, after which the tribunal found the evidence offered by the plaintiff failed to establish the defendant’s liability. Thus, the tribunal dismissed the plaintiff’s case after which the plaintiff appealed.

The Tribunal’s Role in Evaluating Evidence of Medical Malpractice

Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff’s offer of proof of medical malpractice is sufficient if there is evidence that the defendant is a health care provider who did not conform to good medical practice, and the plaintiff suffered damages as a result. However, the tribunal should not assess credibility or weigh the strength of the evidence. Rather, it merely must determine whether, if the plaintiff’s evidence is properly substantiated, it is sufficient to raise a legitimate question of liability. The evidence is to be viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Similarly, the standard for admission of expert testimony at the tribunal level is very lenient. Thus, a fact-based opinion by a qualified expert that the defendant committed malpractice is sufficient.

Here, the plaintiff offered evidence that both of the defendants were involved in the plaintiff’s decedent’s care. Further, the plaintiff’s expert testified that both of the defendants failed to recognize the plaintiff’s need for emergency surgery in a timely manner and failed to provide appropriate post-surgical care which resulted in her untimely death. Thus the court found that no other evidence was needed to raise a legitimate question of liability as to either doctor. Therefore, the court reversed the tribunal’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Discuss your Case with a Skilled Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to negligent medical care you should discuss the circumstances surrounding your harm with a skilled Massachusetts personal injury attorney to determine whether you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against your treatment provider.  The personal injury attorneys of Karsner & Meehan will help you formulate strong arguments which will help you in your pursuit of a successful outcome under the facts of your case. You can contact us at 508-822-6600 or via our online form to set up a free and confidential conference.