Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Medical Malpractice
Medical Protective Co. of Fort Wayne, Indiana v. American International Specialty Lines Insurance Co.
In 2002, in Texas, Dr. Phillips performed a laparoscopic hysterectomy on Bramlett, a 36-year-old mother. While hospitalized, Bramlett suffered internal bleeding and died. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital and Dr. Phillips, who held a $200,000 professional liability insurance policy with MedPro. He notified MedPro of the lawsuit. In 2003, the hospital settled with the Bramletts for approximately $2.3 million. The Bramletts wrote to Dr. Phillips’s attorney, Davidson, with a $200,000 Stowers demand; under Texas law, if an insurer rejects a plaintiff's demand that is within the insured’s policy limit and that a reasonably prudent insurer would accept, the insurer will later be liable for any amount awarded over the policy limit. MedPro twice refused to settle. The family won a $14 million verdict. The Supreme Court of Texas capped Dr. Phillips’s liability. The family sued MedPro, which settled. MedPro was insured by AISLIC, which declined to cover MedPro’s settlement. The district court granted AISLIC summary judgment, concluding that coverage was excluded because MedPro should have foreseen the family’s claim. An exclusion precluded coverage for “any claim arising out of any Wrongful Act” which occurred prior to June 30, 2005, if before that date MedPro “knew or could have reasonably foreseen that such Wrongful Act could lead to a claim.” The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, finding genuine issues of material fact regarding whether MedPro’s failure to settle was a Wrongful Act and whether MedPro could have foreseen a "claim" before the malpractice trial. View "Medical Protective Co. of Fort Wayne, Indiana v. American International Specialty Lines Insurance Co." on Justia Law
McCann v. Ogle County
McCann was severely burned while attempting to commit arson at his mother’s house and spent three weeks in the hospital before being released to police custody. McCann died from a doctor’s over-prescription of methadone while detained and awaiting trial at the Ogle County Correctional Center. His estate brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging deliberate indifference to McCann’s severe burn wounds and related medical needs. The treating physician and his private employer settled the claims. The district court entered summary judgment for the remaining defendants, concluding that the evidence did not show that any individual defendant acted with deliberate indifference. The Seventh Circuit subsequently replaced deliberate indifference with a standard requiring a showing of objective reasonableness for a claim challenging the medical care provided to a pretrial detainee like McCann. Measuring the record evidence under this new standard, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the award of summary judgment to the individual defendants and a determination that the record evidence did not support a claim for municipal liability against Ogle County under Monell. View "McCann v. Ogle County" on Justia Law
Wilson v. Adams
Since entering the custody of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in 2009, Wilson has sought medical treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, neck and throat pain, and difficulty breathing and swallowing. He alleged that Oshkosh Correctional Institution's doctors were deliberately indifferent in their treatment of these ailments in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The district court found that no reasonable jury could find that the doctors were deliberately indifferent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Wilson failed to prove that he actually suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. None of the testing done at Oshkosh or at the Wisconsin Resource Center provided any evidence that Wilson suffered from a cognitive disorder. These disorders are difficult to identify and diagnose, but without such evidence, Wilson cannot show that he suffered a serious medical condition, let alone indifference in the treatment of that condition. The doctor did investigate Wilson’s mental health condition, referring him to a psychiatrist and a specialty center for extensive observation. The record is replete with evidence of the doctor’s attempts to diagnose the source of Wilson’s pain. He worked with endocrinologists, an otolaryngologist, a speech pathologist, a pulmonologist, a neurosurgeon, and a dentist. View "Wilson v. Adams" on Justia Law
Owens v. Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Owens began using Testim, a topical gel containing 1% testosterone, in July 2011 when his doctor diagnosed him with hypogonadism. Owens used Testim sporadically. Although the medication guide directs users to apply a full tube of Testim to the shoulders and arms, Owens would apply part of a tube to his thighs and stomach. In July 2013, Owens was admitted to a hospital for pain in his leg. An ultrasound revealed blood clots. He was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Owens was treated with blood thinners and released the following day. Owens sued, asserting strict liability, negligence, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation under Kentucky law. Each claim requires expert testimony to establish causation. Owens’s case was selected for a bellwether trial in multidistrict litigation. Owens planned to rely on testimony by Dr. Abbas that Testim had caused Owens’s DVT. That opinion assumed that Owens was applying the prescribed dose in the proper manner. When asked during his deposition about hypothetical cases that resembled Owens’s use of Testim, Abbas had no opinion. The district court excluded the testimony and granted Auxilium summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court properly applied the Daubert framework when excluding Abbas’s testimony. It did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the testimony did not fit the facts of Owens’s case or by failing to consider an argument Owens never presented. Without expert testimony on causation, Owens’s claims necessarily fail. View "Owens v. Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law
Dalton v. Teva North America
Dalton’s doctor implanted Teva’s Intrauterine Device (IUD) in her uterus for long-term birth control. Dalton became dissatisfied with the IUD and asked her doctor to remove it. The doctor did so by grasping its strings with a forceps and pulling the IUD down. A piece broke off either before or during the removal and lodged in her uterus. Dalton’s doctor advised that removing the remaining portion of the IUD would require a hysterectomy. Dalton sued Teva, asserting “strict liability,” “strict products liability failure to warn,” and “manufacturer’s defect.” Dalton failed to timely disclose any expert witness and serve the expert witness report required by FRCP 26(a)(2). The district court granted Teva summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Claims under the Indiana Products Liability Act, which governs all consumer actions against a manufacturer for physical harm caused by a product, require proof that the injury was proximately caused by whatever defect or breach of duty underlies the claim. The Act requires expert testimony when an issue “is not within the understanding of a lay person.” Dalton did not establish how a lay juror faced with a broken IUD could identify the cause of the break—maybe the IUD was damaged after coming into the possession of the physician, maybe human error resulted in damage during implantation or removal. This case is far removed from situations in which a causation issue is so obvious that a plaintiff may forgo expert testimony. View "Dalton v. Teva North America" on Justia Law
Mimms v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.
Mimms, an Indiana-licensed physician, prescribes controlled substances to patients. Several times, CVS Pharmacy employees informed Mimms’s patients that they would not fill their prescriptions. Mimms sued, alleging defamation. CVS argued that Mimms had no evidence that the speakers knew their statements were false. The court granted summary judgment as to five statements and denied judgment for four statements, reasoning there was a material question of fact regarding whether the speakers knew that their statements were false, given evidence that CVS’s corporate office had investigated Mimms and had not stopped stores from filling his prescriptions. The court rejected CVS’s argument that knowledge held by the corporate office could not be imputed to the speakers. The statements were: “CVS doesn’t fill Dr. Mimms’[s] prescriptions or prescriptions for any other pill mills.” “Mimms went to jail.” “Mimms has been … or will be arrested.” “Mimms is under DEA investigation. A jury found CVS liable for defamation per se and awarded Mimms $1,025,000. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Mimms proffered no evidence that the first three statements were made with actual malice. CVS is entitled to a new trial on the fourth statement; the court should have allowed CVS to present evidence that Mimms was the subject of a DEA investigation and regarding Mimms’s reputation. In a defamation per se case, damage to reputation is presumed but evidence regarding the extent of the harm to his professional reputation was critical for minimizing damages. View "Mimms v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc." on Justia Law
Joas v. Zimmer, Inc.
Joas underwent knee replacement at a Wisconsin hospital and received a Zimmer NexGen Flex implant. Within a few years, he began experiencing pain in his new knee. X-rays confirmed that the implant had loosened and required a surgical fix. Joas brought multiple claims against Zimmer. His case was transferred to a multidistrict litigation, where it was treated as a bellwether case. Applying Wisconsin law, the presiding judge granted Zimmer summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, declining to reinstate a single claim based on a theory of inadequate warning. The court predicted that the Wisconsin Supreme Court would follow the majority of states and adopt the “learned intermediary” doctrine, which holds that the manufacturer of a medical device has no duty to warn the patient as long as it provides adequate warnings to the physician. In addition, Joas has not identified any danger that Zimmer should have warned him about. Joas has no evidence to support causation. Joas did not select the NexGen Flex implant, so the information would not have caused him to change his behavior. His doctor selected the product, making his decision based on his own past experience, not on any marketing materials or information provided by Zimmer. View "Joas v. Zimmer, Inc." on Justia Law
Lipsey v. United States
White, pregnant with her tenth child, was charged with federal bank fraud. She failed to appear and was taken into custody when she was 35 weeks pregnant. The U.S. Marshals arranged for her housing at JCDC, which had a full-time medical staff and a relationship with an obstetrics practice. White’s intake form indicated an October 18 due date. Her blood pressure was high. No medical history was taken. White did not disclose that with her ninth pregnancy, she had an emergency cesarean section at 34 weeks. White signed a release but JCDC did not obtain her prenatal care records. For 10 days, White had multiple contacts with medical staff. She told a nurse that she was not having any problems. White then refused to be seen and signed a refusal form. Days later, White awoke with pain and called for assistance at 5:10. An ambulance arrived at 5:22. White arrived at the hospital at 5:52. White again denied having any complications or chronic medical problems. At 6:07, the nurse was unable to find fetal heart tones. At 6:13, the doctor ordered an emergency cesarean section. J.L. was delivered at 6:33. White had suffered a complete abruption of the placenta which stopped the flow of oxygen to J.L., who has severe, permanent disabilities. The abruption likely occurred in the ambulance or at the hospital, because J.L. would not have survived had it occurred earlier. Her father sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671, alleging medical malpractice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Placement and retention of White at JCDC fell within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA’s waiver of sovereign immunity. There was no indication that White needed immediate care before the morning of J.L.’s birth, when staff promptly called for help. View "Lipsey v. United States" on Justia Law
Rodrigo v. Carle Foundation Hospital
Carle’s medical residency program, which has an employment component, was governed by annual contracts. Residents were required to complete rotations before advancing and to pass the Step 3 U.S. Medical Licensing Examination before entering the third year. A third Step 3 failure results in termination. Carle residents cannot graduate unless they complete licensing requirements. Illinois medical students with five failures in the Step tests are not eligible for licensure without significant remediation. Rodrigo failed his first attempts at Step 1 and Step 2. He was required to repeat four rotations. His supervisors thought a neuropsychological examination might identify issues affecting his performance. Rodrigo never underwent recommended testing. Carle extended Rodrigo’s first and second years to allow him to repeat rotations and the Step 3 test, which he failed a second time. Rodrigo then informed Carle that he had a sleep disorder. Although Rodrigo did not request an accommodation, the director suggested that he take time off. Rodrigo did so, but failed a third time. Rodrigo asked to be promoted so that he could attempt to pass Step 3 in California. After termination of his residency, Rodrigo sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act. 42 U.S.C. 1210. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Carle, finding that Rodrigo was not a “qualified individual.” Passing Step 3 is an “essential function.” Rodrigo presented no evidence of a causal connection between his protected activity (seeking an accommodation) and his termination. View "Rodrigo v. Carle Foundation Hospital" on Justia Law
Madden v. United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Madden, suffering from morbid obesity, respiratory acidosis, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia, was admitted to the V.A. Hospital several times before his last admission on December 28, 2007. The Hospital placed Madden in respiratory isolation. On the same day, Madden’s wife described him as “not being himself,” and unsuccessfully requested the presence of a staff member in the room with Madden at all times. The Hospital allowed Madden to sit in a wheelchair because of his difficulty with lying in bed. Madden consistently reported that he was feeling fine, with a few comments about shortness of breath. On January 1, 2008, Madden was found unresponsive in his wheelchair. It took the Hospital 25 minutes to resuscitate him; Madden had suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest. On January 25, Madden was transferred to a long‐term care facility. He never regained consciousness and died on January 8, 2010. Madden’s estate filed a wrongful death suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in favor of the government, agreeing that the government’s expert’s opinions were supported by medical records, relevant literature, data, studies, and medical explanations; while the government successfully impeached the family’s expert, a family friend, for lack of consultation of relevant medical literature and even Madden’s medical records. View "Madden v. United States Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law