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Pennsylvania appeals court reinstates medical malpractice case

Medical malpractice cases can involve complex questions of law and fact. Occasionally, one rule can affect the application of another. In a recent decision of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, a jury's finding in favor of the defendant doctor in a medical malpractice case was reversed because the trial court erroneously allowed the introduction of evidence about the risks of hysterectomies.

The plaintiff underwent a hysterectomy performed by a gynecological surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh. During the course of the surgery, the doctor erroneously severed the woman's bowel. At trial, the doctor's lawyers offered evidence that the surgeon and the plaintiff had discussed the risks of surgery, including the severing of the bowel, before the surgery commenced. The plaintiff's attorneys objected to the evidence on the ground that the case did not involve the question of whether the plaintiff consented to the surgery and evidence of what the surgeon told her was irrelevant. The trial court sided with the doctor's attorneys and admitted the evidence and allowed the defendant's attorney to mention it in his opening statement and closing argument.

On appeal, the Superior Court reversed the trial court's ruling because it found that the plaintiff had not alleged that the surgeon had failed to obtain her informed consent. Whether the plaintiff was informed of the risks and complications of the surgery was therefore irrelevant, and introduction of the evidence was reversible error. The court agreed with plaintiff's argument that introduction of the evidence may have misled the jury into mistakenly believing that the case turned on the patient's consent instead of whether the defendant's surgical procedures failed to meet the standard of care. The case was remanded to the trial court for a new trial.

Anyone who has received negligent medical care or lost a loved one to a medical error may wish to consult a lawyer who is knowledgeable and experienced in medical malpractice cases. The lawyers at Leisawitz Heller have successfully handled many medical practices cases involving a wide variety of medical conditions and procedures. These skilled lawyers can offer helpful advice on factual and legal issues that will affect the outcome of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: Law360, "UPMC Doc Must Face New Trial Over Botched Hysterectomy," Y. Peter King, March 29, 2017

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