Massachusetts Court of Appeals Allows Injured to Pursue Action Against Two Doctors

Massachusetts medical malpractice claims must be reviewed by a tribunal before they are allowed to proceed in the civil court system. During this review, the tribunal is made up of a superior court judge, an attorney, and a Massachusetts-licensed healthcare provider who practices in the same field of medicine in which the alleged injury occurred. The healthcare provider is often a medical doctor, but can also be a nurse, physical therapist, or pharmacist. This group asks whether there is enough evidence to present a medical malpractice claim in front of a jury. If the tribunal finds against the plaintiff, the plaintiff can appeal the denial of the claim to the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

In Normand vs. Cambria, the injured patient filed a medical malpractice action against two doctors. The tribunal allowed suit against one of the doctors, but felt there was not enough proof against the other to move forward. The injured patient sought treatment for a thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm. The injured patient was treated by a surgeon and an attending physician who provided follow-up care to the injured patient. During the procedure, a device was installed in the patient to drain the spinal fluid to encourage blood flow to the spinal cord and decrease pressure from the fluid.

The injured patient’s expert testified that the drain was removed prematurely, resulting in the injured spinal cord ischemia, partial paralysis, and neurogenic bladder. The expert stated that the drain should have remained in no less than 72 hours after the surgery. The removal of the drain under 48 hours formed the basis of the injured party’s allegation that this was below the acceptable standard of care.

The intensive care unit physician, whose case was dismissed by the tribunal, claimed that he relied upon the surgeon’s order to remove the drain. The appellate court disagreed, reviewing the facts in the record, and concluded that the ICU physician either ordered the removal independently or in concert with the surgeon. The injured patient’s expert further opined that even if the ICU physician didn’t order the removal of the tube, he should have recognized that the tube should have remained for a longer period of time and made the recommendation to the surgeon.

The Court of Appeals pointed to another Massachusetts case, Cooper v. Cooper, which looked at the dynamic between physicians and whether one relied upon the other for guidance. In this case, the court did not find anything in the record that would have reflected that the ICU physician relied upon the surgeon and deferred to his judgment, nor did they find anything that indicated that one doctor was more experienced than the other. Based on this, the dismissal against the ICU physician was vacated, and the case was allowed to move forward.

The Massachusetts medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the experience you need to help litigate your personal injury claim in front of the tribunals and the court. For a free, confidential consultation, call our office at 508.822.6600.

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