Massachusetts Court Explains What Constitutes a Sufficient Offer Of Proof in a Malpractice Case

In Massachusetts, the law requires any person wishing to pursue a medical malpractice action to provide a sufficient offer of proof of liability at the onset of the claim.  Recently, in Moalli v. Genesis Healthcare, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts overturning a trial court’s dismissal of a claim due to insufficient proof, explaining that proof offered will be sufficient if it shows a likelihood that the defendant’s negligence caused the harm alleged.  If you or a loved one was injured due to negligent medical care, you should consult a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to analyze the facts of your case and assess whether you may be able to recover damages.

Facts Surrounding the Decedent’s Illness

Allegedly, the decedent was admitted to the defendant rehabilitation facility following a hospitalization for pneumonia. He was 87 years old at the time of his admission. He was placed in a room with an individual suffering from a Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff) infection. The decedent’s family members were not informed of the infection. Additionally, the decedent’s daughter observed the staff members performing their duties without gloves or gowns. Twelve days after he was admitted the decedent was transferred to another room. He began reporting loose stools and had an elevated white cell count, which was not revealed to the decedent’s family. He was ultimately discharged to an assisted living facility where he continued to be treated for loose stools. Approximately one month after his admission to the defendant facility he was diagnosed with C. Diff. He passed away twelve days later while in hospice. Colitis was listed as one of the significant factors contributing to his death. The plaintiffs, decedent’s family, filed a medical malpractice suit against the defendant facility. The plaintiffs’ complaint was ultimately dismissed for failure to provide sufficient offer of proof of liability. The plaintiffs subsequently appealed.

Sufficiency of Offer of Proof

To proceed with a medical malpractice claim, a plaintiff must offer proof to a medical malpractice tribunal that the defendant is a health care provider, that defendant failed to conform to good medical practices, and the resulting harm. The tribunal must review the proof in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. The proof will be found sufficient it if shows there is a likelihood the defendant’s conduct harmed the plaintiff.

Here, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant facility was negligent for failing to diagnose and treat the decedent when he was admitted in the facility. The plaintiffs offered an expert who opined that the failure to diagnose and treat the plaintiff in a timely manner was a significant factor in causing his death. The defendant facility argued the plaintiffs failed to establish that the failure to diagnose the decedent caused his death, in light of records that indicated the decedent was infection free at the time of his discharge. The court disregarded this argument, noting that the expert’s failure to consider certain records went to the weight and credibility, not whether the proof offered was adequate. Based on the foregoing, the court found that the plaintiffs’ offer of proof was sufficient to show a connection between the defendant facility’s negligence and the resulting harm. As such, the court reversed the trial court dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Meet with a Skilled Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you received medical treatment that fell below the standard of care and caused you to sustain harm, you should seek compensation for any illnesses or injuries you sustained. It is in your best interest to meet with a skilled Massachusetts personal injury attorney to formulate a plan for pursuing damages. The personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan will work tirelessly to help you obtain a favorable outcome under the facts of your case. Contact us at 508-822-6600 or through our online form to schedule a free and confidential conference.

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Under Massachusetts Law an Unavailable Witness’s Deposition Testimony Can Be Used at Trial, October 11, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog