Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

South Carolina medical malpractice cases can arise in a number of contexts, including not only obvious mistakes, such as leaving an instrument inside a patient’s body or surgically removing the wrong organ, but also more complicated situations, such as a failure to make a timely diagnosis of lung cancer.

While the physician may not have caused the underlying medical condition (such as cancer), if it can be said that his or her failure to make a diagnosis in accordance with the applicable standard of care caused ultimate harm to a patient, there is a possibility that a medical malpractice claim may lie against the doctor.

Of course, each case is fact-specific, and there must be competent evidence from expert witnesses – other doctors – to explain to the jury exactly what should have happened, what went wrong, and how the error ultimately affected the patient. Without expert testimony, most medical malpractice cases fail regardless of how seriously the patient was injured (or even if he or she passed away due to the alleged mistake).

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When someone is a victim of medical malpractice, he or she may incur substantial medical expenses because of his or her injuries. When the injured person is a minor child, it is usually the parent who bears the financial responsibility for those expenses. The state’s highest court entertained a South Carolina medical malpractice case earlier this month in which the issue was whether a minor had the right to sue for his or her medical expenses or whether only a parent had that right.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case under consideration by the South Carolina Supreme Court, the plaintiff was the mother of a minor child who allegedly suffered an injury during her birth in 2007. The mother, acting as the child’s next friend, brought two separate medical malpractice actions in York County, one in 2009 against the doctor and medical group and one in 2012 against the medical center.  The lawsuits were consolidated.

The fact is that most civil lawsuits are settled outside court. Of those that are tried, only a small percentage are appealed. Fewer still are appealed past the intermediate court of appeals and on to the state’s highest court. Still, there are a few cases that make it all the way to the South Carolina Supreme Court, only to be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

When this happens, there are several rules that come into play regarding the effect that the court’s previous resolution of certain issues will have on the next round of litigation.

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Several months ago, we told you about a federal court of appeals’ decision in a case in which a medical malpractice insurance company sought a declaratory judgment as to its responsibility to cover certain acts of malpractice after it was discovered that a fake nursing home “doctor” had illegally assumed the identity of a physician who was out of the country.

In that decision, the appellate court held that the principles of equity demanded that there be coverage for the innocent co-insureds under the medical malpractice policy that was in place during the impostor’s time at the nursing home.

Now, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, has issued a new opinion in a related matter.

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Civil claims not asserted in a timely fashion face dismissal on procedural grounds, regardless of the merits of the underlying complaint. The time period that a claimant has to assert his or her rights varies from case to case, depending upon the state in which the claim arose and the nature of the complaint.

In South Carolina, some claims (including medical malpractice claims) are governed by both a statute of limitations and a statute of repose. Essentially, the statute of repose allows additional time in situations in which the plaintiff does not discover the act of malpractice within the time otherwise allowed by the statute of limitations, but it still puts an outer window on the period for filing suit.

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It seems that the amount of paperwork required in order to be admitted to a hospital, nursing home, or other health care facility grows with each passing year. It can be overwhelming even under the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, health care providers can be quite demanding and pushy, shoving papers into a patient’s hands or insisting that a loved one complete them prior to admission.

In many cases, the patient or the family member has no idea what he or she is signing. This is especially true when it comes to arbitration agreements, which have the power to prevent a dispute between the patient and the facility from proceeding to court.

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There are several issues that are common in nursing home and senior care litigation, such as falls, medication errors, bedsores, and medical malpractice. In the recent unreported per curiam opinion of Evanston Insurance Company v. Agape Senior Primary Care, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit was asked to review a case arising in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina at Columbia that presented a more unique issue.

In early 2012, the defendant facility hired a man who held himself out to be a board-certified physician. In actuality, the man was an impostor, and he had stolen the identity of the real physician, who was out of the country at the time. Approximately six months later, the defendant learned of the impostor’s fraud when he was arrested. He was later convicted and sentenced to two years in federal prison for aggravated identify theft.

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The importance of the statute of limitations – the deadline for filing a lawsuit – cannot be overemphasized. If a case is not filed in a timely fashion, there can be no recovery unless the circumstances fit into a very small number of exceptions.

In the recent case of Sims v. Amisub of South Carolina, the plaintiff was the duly appointed guardian and conservator of a ward who had allegedly been hurt as a result of the medical negligence of the defendant medical center and doctor in 2003. Unfortunately, the conservator’s suit was not filed until 2009.

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A stillbirth occurs when a baby dies after the 20th week of pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, this tragic event happens in about one out of every 160 pregnancies in the United States. It can be caused by a number of factors, including birth defects, problems with the placenta, infections, umbilical cord issues, and chronic health conditions in the mother.

Sometimes, a stillbirth is not preventable. Other times, it may be possible to save the baby if appropriate measures are taken by the mother’s physicians and other medical personnel. A recent decision by the South Carolina Court of Appeals addressed a case in which a mother whose son was stillborn alleged that her doctors’ negligence caused her son’s death.

The Facts of the Case

In the case of Jamison v. Hilton, the plaintiff was a woman who delivered a stillborn infant via Caesarean section after the baby’s heart stopped beating at 32 weeks gestation. She sued two of her doctors and their obstetrical practice, claiming that her son’s death could have been prevented if they had complied with the applicable standard of care.

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If you’ve read a lot of our blog posts, then you probably look at news stories very differently than you used to. You may look at a story now and recognize situations where it may be necessary for victims to obtain a lawyer or when a case might lead to litigation. The latest case of two superbug-related deaths on the other side of the country may be no different as it sparks questions about liability and the possibility of personal injury lawsuits down the road.

Many people here in South Carolina may have heard about the deaths of two patients at a UCLA medical center. According to reports, the patients died after becoming infected with the superbug CRE, which is short for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. The infection was linked to a particular endoscope that the Food and Drug Administration is now saying had not been approved by the agency for use on patients.

Although the makers of the medical device have since applied for FDA approval, the damage has already been done, which could leave many across the nation wondering if and how the victims will be compensated.

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