Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Certificate of Merit Report Found To Be Good Enough To Start Case, But Not To Take Case To Trial

In the case of Dodson v. Univ. of Pitts. Med. Ctr., No. CV-19-01803 (C.P. Lyc. Co. Jan. 9, 2023 Linhardt, J.), the court granted a medical malpractice Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment after finding that, while a Plaintiff produced a physician’s statement that satisfied the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure regarding Certificate of Merit given that statement asserted that deviations from some applicable standard of care likely caused the Plaintiff’s injuries, that same statement was found to have failed to establish the elements of the Plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim to a prima facie level to enable the Plaintiff to proceed to a jury trial.

This matter arose out of medical treatment that included surgery which the Plaintiff alleged resulted in a serious infection that required additional surgery. The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant was negligent in the performance of both procedures, which resulted in a below knee amputation.

The court found that the Plaintiff’s physician’s statement was conclusory, lacking in detail, and was based upon limited medical information. While the Certificate of Merit was challenged earlier in the case, the case was allowed to proceed because the Certificate of Merit asserted some deviation from an applicable standard of care and contained a conclusion that those deviations likely caused the Plaintiff harm.

However, at this later summary judgment stage, the court noted that, in medical malpractice suits, parties are required to produce their expert reports in order to proceed to a trial. In this matter, the Defendant asserted that the Plaintiff failed to produce any expert report other than the above statement that had been provided relative to the Certificate of Merit.

The court agreed and found that the statement provided by the Plaintiff with the Certificate of Merit failed to establish the elements of the Plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim to even a prima facie level.

The court noted that, when it had previously denied the Defendant’s Motion to Strike the Certificate of Merit, the court had foreshadowed in that decision that the Plaintiff had failed to produce any evidence that any particular doctor had violated any duty of care while treating the Plaintiff.

Judge Linhardt otherwise noted that the mere fact of an infection, or of a surgical complication, in and of itself, was insufficient, in and of itself, to establish that negligence had occurred, let alone who was responsible for it.

As such, the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment was granted.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Feb. 21, 2023).

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