Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Trial Court Addresses John Doe Allegations and Informed Consent Claims in Medical Malpractice Case

In the case of Meisse v. Cohan, No. 1821-CV-2022 (C.P. Monroe. Co. March 24, 2023 Higgins, J.), the court sustained in part and overruled in part Preliminary Objections in a medical malpractice action.

According to the Opinion, Plaintiff’s decedent was treated by the Defendant physician for symptoms related to Crohn’s Disease.

The Defendant physician allegedly prescribed the decedent medicine but allegedly never sought to perform tests to determine if the medication was appropriate for the decedent. The decedent died thereafter, allegedly from liver failure.

The decedent’s estate filed this lawsuit and the Defendant filed Preliminary Objections.

In part, the Defendant objected to the “Doe” designations in the Plaintiff’s Complaint on the grounds that the Plaintiff failed to maintain the action against Doe Defendants in compliance with Pa. R.C.P. 2005(b) because that rule mandates that a factual description of each unknown Defendant be provided, which was not done in this case.

The Plaintiff asserted that the identities of the Doe Defendants could be revealed through discovery.

Although the court noted that the Plaintiff lacked factual descriptions about the Doe Defendants because that information was within the Defendant’s control, the court nevertheless held that that Rule 2005 prohibits the use of a class of Defendants as a placeholder or a catch-all category. As such, these Preliminary Objections of the Defendants were sustained.

The court additionally sustained Preliminary Objections asserted by the Defendant under which it was argued that the Plaintiff failed to adequately plead claims against associated cooperations. The court found that, although the Defendant was on reasonable notice of the claims against them in the periods of treatment, the Plaintiff had still failed to identify the corporations and had, instead, similarly used a catch-all category. As such, these objections were sustained as well.

The court sustained the Defendant’s Preliminary Objection asserted that corporate negligent claims should be pled in a separate count under Pa. R.C.P. 1020(a).

Judge Higgins did overrule the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections to the Plaintiff’s inclusion of a claim of informed consent in the Complaint.

The court noted that Pennsylvania law typically holds that doctors must obtain informed consent prior to performing surgical or operative procedures. However, to maintain a cause of action under 40 P.S §1303.504, Plaintiff must allege a failure arising from one of the following: surgery, anesthesia, the administration of radiation or chemotherapy, the administration of a blood transfusion, the insertion of a surgical device, or the administration of an experimental medication device.

Given that the Plaintiff had referred to experimental treatment in her Brief in Opposition to the Preliminary Objections, the court overruled this objection of the Defendant.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 25, 2023).

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