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New Jersey Medical Malpractice Blog

Minor plaintiff cannot dismiss a claim without prejudice if Affidavit of Merit not timely filed – A.T. et al. v. Cohen et al., decided April 27, 2016

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on June 10, 2016

In this medical malpractice suit, minor plaintiff’s mother filed this suit individually, and, on behalf of her daughter asserting medical malpractice claims. The Appellate Court considers whether a minor plaintiff can take a voluntary dismissal without prejudice under Rule 4:37-1(b) to avoid a dismissal with prejudice of her complaint for the failure to provide an affidavit of merit within the required time frame. Ultimately, it concluded that cannot use Rule 4:37-1(b) to avoid the time frames set forth in the “Affidavit of Merit” statute regardless of whether or not the statute of limitations had expired. Read the rest »

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

Testimony of plaintiff’s expert may be used to establish “fault” of settling defendant for purposes of “Young v. Latta” apportionment – Gatesy v. Perotte and Elliot, et al., decided April 7, 2016 (A-0360-13T3)

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on June 2, 2016

In this medical malpractice action, the plaintiff experienced pain in his neck and difficulty breathing after engaging in playful wrestling the previous evening. The attending emergency physician, Dr. Perotte, applied a hard cervical collar and ordered an x-ray of plaintiff’s cervical spine. A CT scan was then performed, which revealed that plaintiff was experiencing a spinal cord compression, and “plaintiff had suffered a stable neck fracture with locked facets in the same area of his neck which contributed to the compression.” Dr. Perotte chose not to further immobilize plaintiff’s neck. Plaintiff later complained of numbness in both upper limbs but the nurse failed to update his chart or inform Dr. Perotte. He was also administratively admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU) but physically remained in the emergency department, which was no longer permitted to provide medical care to plaintiff except in the case of a life-threatening emergency. When the neurosurgeon started to initiate treatment, he was already suffering clinical paralysis and experiencing loss of normal neurological function, which had steadily declined since he was brought to the hospital. Read the rest »

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

Appellate Court Affirms that Plaintiff May Read in Testimony of Unavailable Treating Physicians – Sheets V. Siegler (Decided March 27, 2015) (A-1836-11T4)

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on March 16, 2016

In this dental malpractice case, the plaintiff experienced excruciating pain following a wisdom tooth extraction performed by the defendant dentist. She later developed numbness in her tongue and shooting pain from the back of her jaw, causing her difficulty speaking and swallowing. The patient, thereafter, underwent surgery to repair an apparent injury to her right lingual nerve. However, her difficulties remained, and she began receiving steroid injections to treat what was diagnosed as a neuroma of the right lingual nerve. Read the rest »

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice Dismissal Upheld by Appellate Division for Failure to Comply with Affidavit of Merit Statute – Lang v. Morristown Hospital A-0876-13T1 (decided February 3, 2016)

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on February 9, 2016

This case involved a 17 year old boy, with a history of HADD and autism, who, in September 2011, was admitted to Chilton Memorial Hospital with renal failure and septic shock. He underwent emergency colon surgery, but, unfortunately, died a week later from a pulmonary embolism.

His family sued a number of practitioners, including the boy’s psychiatrist, and the treating pediatric critical care, pediatric nephrology and pediatric surgical providers. An Affidavit of Merit was served by a physician who practiced general surgery, had not practiced since 2006 and who had not taught medicine since 2011. The Trial Court dismissed the action finding that the plaintiff had not served appropriate Affidavits of Merit.

In upholding the Trial Court dismissal, the Appellate Court held that: a. a general surgeon cannot opine as to the standard of care of a psychiatrist, pediatric critical care doctor, pediatric neurologist or a pediatric surgeon; b. plaintiff’s expert was not actively engaged in the clinical practice, nor an instructor in medicine at an accredited institution in 2011; c. plaintiff’s counsel failed to timely file a motion under N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-41, seeking a ‘waiver’ of the Affidavit of Merit statute; and, d. even if such a motion had been timely made, has not made a showing that a ‘good faith effort’ was made to secure Affidavits from experts in the appropriate fields.

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

Supreme Court Holds Hospital Facility Only Entitled to Limited Charitable Immunity, but not Absolute Immunity for Fall Down Injury on Premises – Kuchera v. Jersey Shore Family Health Center, 221 N.J. 239 (March 31, 2015)

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on January 27, 2016

This is a premises liability case wherein Plaintiff slipped and fell on a wet spot on a floor in an outpatient health care facility, Jersey Shore Family Health Center (Family Health Center), owned and operated by a nonprofit hospital. Summary judgment was granted in favor of the hospital pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7, which grants immunity from negligence actions to nonprofit entities organized exclusively for charitable, educational, or religious purposes. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that “the parent-hospital’s provision of charity care and medical education rendered the hospital a hybrid nonprofit institution organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes . . .” and was, therefore, immune from liability pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7 to -11. Read the rest »

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

No Cause Verdict Reversed Where Trial Court Improperly Excluded Defendant Surgeon’s Statements Against Self Interest – Parker v. Poole A-1874-12T$ (Decided March 2, 2015)

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on January 19, 2016

The Plaintiff, after a biopsy of a tumor, was diagnosed with invasive adenocarcinoma of the colon, and was referred to the defendant surgeon to undergo an operation to remove the tumor. A transverse colon resection and open anastomosis was performed. Three days later, the plaintiff developed a dehiscence. The next day, the defendant performed a second surgery to investigate whether  there was an anastomotic leak. Defendant testified “[w]e never saw a hole, we never saw a perforation,” yet he decided to remove the anastomosis, explaining that the anastomosis was not perfect.  Approximately two days later, Mr. Parker had a cataclysmic rapid demise caused by sepsis. The parties disputed the source of the sepsis at trial.  Central to the dispute was the defendant’s deposition testimony wherein he stated, “I have to assume [the sepsis] was related to the anastomotic leak.” Read the rest »

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

Case against orthodontist dismissed with prejudice claim for failure to timely serve an appropriate Affidavit of Merit; Trial Court decision upheld –Meehan v. Antonellis, A-0140-13T4 decided August 21, 2014 (Appellate Div.)

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on January 16, 2016

Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that Dr. Antonellis fitted plaintiff with a “positioner” for use while sleeping, to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. Dr. Antonellis assured plaintiff that the “positioner” would not cause his teeth to shift. However, his teeth did shift, causing him to incur more dental work, including a crown, and symptoms such as chronic muscle pain and headaches.

Read the rest »

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

Infant plaintiff escapes with prejudice dismissal of malpractice claim for failing to timely serve an Affidavit of Merit – Cooper v. Russo, ESX-L-1507-14, decided Sept. 19, 2014 (Law Div.)

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on January 7, 2016

In this medical malpractice action, the infant plaintiff’s parents filed a lawsuit on behalf of themselves and their minor son. As the plaintiffs’ counsel could not secure a timely Affidavit of Merit, he sought a voluntary dismissal of the child’s claim without prejudice and dismissal of the parents claim with prejudice. After a “Ferreira” conference, the Court granted plaintiffs’ dismissal requests. The defendants sought reconsideration of the Court’s Order, arguing that the ruling created an impermissible exception to the Affidavit of Merit statute, in that it allowed the infant plaintiff the opportunity to serve an Affidavit outside of the statutory period. Read the rest »

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

Defendant’s permitted to have plaintiff’s treating surgeon testify as to cause of decedent’s injuries – Caratozzolo v. Davis, et. als. Docket No. A-4773-11T3

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on July 14, 2015

This medical malpractice claim arises from neurologic injuries plaintiff sustained after defendants failed to timely diagnose and treat his aortic dissection. At trial the jury found defendants did not deviate from accepted standards of care, except for a third year resident and a cardiac sonographer. However, as to those defendants who were negligent, the jury determined their deviations did not increase the risk of harm, and, thus a verdict of no cause for action was returned. . On appeal, plaintiff argued that the Trial Court erred in denying plaintiff’s motion to limit the testimony of plaintiff’s treating surgeon, Dr. Krause because he provided expert testimony as to causation, although he was not named as a trial expert. Read the rest »

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

Expert Testimony Not Always Needed to Support An Informed Consent Claim: Sharon Parker v. Joseph Ortiz, M.D. A-5868-11T1

By Attorney Michael B. Zerres on July 13, 2015

This medical malpractice action arises from an iridotomy performed on the plaintiff’s left eye, which resulted in post-operative complications. The Trial Court granted defendants motion for partial summary judgment on plaintiff’s informed consent claim, asserting plaintiff’s failure to provide expert medical evidence that the medical community knew of the risk of her specific injury. After hearing conflicting testimony regarding plaintiff’s negligence claim, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants. Plaintiff moved for a new trial claiming the dismissal of her informed consent claim was in error, and the jury verdict was against the weight of the evidence. The motion for a new trial was denied. Read the rest »

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

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