Massachusetts Superior Court Finds Deceased Patient’s Estate Provided Enough Proof of Medical Malpractice

In Massachusetts, when a medical malpractice action is filed in court, the case must be submitted to the Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Tribunal (MMT) for review. The MMT was established in the mid-1970s, and it does not apply to those who present claims in a letter addressed to the healthcare provider. The tribunal has one superior court judge, an attorney, and a Massachusetts-licensed healthcare provider. The provider is often a physician but can be a nurse, pharmacist, or physical therapist; and he or she must be a provider that works in the same medical specialty in which the alleged injury occurred.

Tribunals ask the question of whether or not the injured person or the deceased person’s estate has enough properly substantiated evidence to bring a case before a jury. A statement from an expert stating the standard of care was breached and caused injury to the patient must be included. The MMT reviews medical, hospital, and office records to make a determination. If two of the three panelists agree with the injured patient, the case can proceed. If the MMT agrees with the defendant hospital or physician, a bond has to be posted to proceed.

In a Massachusetts case, Thou v. Russo, the Appeals Court reviewed an appeal from a dismissed malpractice action. The deceased patient suffered a heart attack after liposuction and abdominoplasty procedures. The injured patient’s estate filed suit against the anesthesiologist, who used a solution containing lidocaine and epinephrine delivered through “several small stab incisions” in the areas to be suctioned. During the surgery, the patient’s blood pressure dropped, and emergency procedures were performed for an hour and a half. The patient became stable for an hour and a half but eventually went into cardiac arrest.

The estate of the injured patient alleged that there was a breach of the standard of care by the anesthesiologist in administering toxic doses of the anesthetic solution. The proof provided to the MMT included an opinion letter from a medical expert, the decedent’s hospital records, the medical examiner’s records, and the defendant doctor’s office records. The testimony of the injured patient’s medical expert asserted that the safer standard of practice for anesthesia during liposuction is local anesthesia, and that there was no reason to administer preoperative fluids containing epinephrine and lidocaine to the patient. The doctor pointed to several instances recorded in medical and office records of the defendant doctor’s inadequate note-taking regarding the drugs administered and the amount of I.V. fluid provided to the patient. The Appeals Court believed the proof provided by the injured patient’s estate to be adequate, vacated the MMT’s ruling, and remanded the matter to the Superior Court.

When facing the hurdle of the Medical Malpractice Tribunal, an injured patient needs a knowledgeable attorney to push a Massachusetts medical malpractice action through. The lawyers at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the personal injury litigation experience required. For a free, confidential consultation, contact our office at 508.822.6600.

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