Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Verdict for Plaintiff in Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Case

In any case involving the alleged wrongful death of the victim, the surviving heirs bringing the action must show that the defendant acted negligently at the time of the accident. This involves proving four separate elements:  duty, breach, causation, and damages. In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff typically must offer testimony from a medical expert regarding the issues of duty and breach. The trial court is vested with the authority to decide whether the expert whom the plaintiff has selected has sufficient experience and knowledge to provide an expert opinion about the issue.

In Ellis v. Clarke, the plaintiff brought an action on behalf of the estate of a woman who passed away due to lung cancer. The plaintiff named the treating physician for the decedent as the defendant in the action. After trial, the jury returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor, finding that the doctor had acted negligently and that the lack of adequate medical care he tendered was a substantial cause in the decedent’s passing.

The doctor next moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which is a motion that asks the court to enter a verdict for the moving party despite the jury’s results. The defendant also filed a motion seeking a new trial. The trial court denied both of these motions, and the defendant filed an appeal. First, the court evaluated the defendant’s argument that one of the expert witnesses whom the plaintiff offered, a radiologist, should not have been admitted to testify as an expert because the expert did not have experience as an emergency radiologist. According to the appellate court, the expert was qualified to testify on the subject because he was a diagnostic radiologist who throughout his tenure had reviewed and opined on chest x-rays in emergency rooms.

Next, the appellate court concluded that the defendant had waived any argument regarding whether the plaintiff needed to provide evidence showing that the defendant doctor should have made a diagnosis by a certain date. The court went on to reason that even if the defendant had properly preserved this argument for appeal, the court would have disagreed with the doctor. Finally, the appellate court rejected the doctor’s contention that the jury’s award for pain and suffering lacked sufficient evidence in the record, while also concluding that the lower court did not commit any error in allowing mortality tables to be admitted into evidence, even though the decedent had a record of preexisting conditions that were not related to lung cancer.

At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we understand how traumatic and stressful a case involving medical negligence or the loss of a loved one can be. Our team of compassionate, seasoned, and tenacious medical malpractice lawyers is prepared to help your family and you assert your rights and fight for the compensation that you deserve. If you are unsure about the legal options that may be available to you, we offer a free consultation to discuss your situation. Call us at 1-800-446-4485 or contact us online to set up your appointment. Time may be running out in your case, so act fast to preserve your rights.

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