Recent Verdicts & Decisions
Recent Verdicts & Decisions
April 2018: Robert R. Hamel, Jr., Esq. – Residency Termination for Unauthorized Moonlighting Upheld by Hearing Committee
Attorney Bob Hamel was asked to represent a hospital residency program in a hospital hearing process to review an adverse action taken against a physician. The physician was terminated from a surgical residency program for violating the program’s policy prohibiting moonlighting and engaging in a pattern of dishonest and potentially dangerous behavior. He had been previously reprimanded for engaging in unauthorized moonlighting. He continued the practice despite several warnings about the consequences of another transgression and was ultimately terminated. Attorney Hamel successfully represented the residency program before the hospital hearing committee, which issued a finding in support of the program’s decision.
April 2018: Robert R. Hamel, Jr., Esq. – Medical Malpractice – Jury Verdict for Defense
In this case, the 25-year old plaintiff underwent elective spine surgery performed by the defendant in 2009. The plaintiff first presented to the defendant with a history of chronic back pain with pain and numbness radiating down to her lower extremities. After a series of conservative treatments, the plaintiff was referred to the defendant for a spine surgery consultation. Taking into account her young age, history, and prior treatment, she was advised to continue conservative treatments. When these failed, the defendant performed a minimally invasive transsacral fusion without complications. A month following surgery, the plaintiff reported her original low back pain had resolved, but complained of new pain in her SI joint and leg spasms which did not resolve. She sought a second opinion a few months later and was conservatively treated at the second facility for a year before, due to continued and worsening symptoms, a second more complex two-level spinal fusion was performed obtaining relief. Plaintiff’s allegations were that the defendant was negligent in his performance of the first spinal fusion and that a screw placed during the procedure impinged on neural elements, causing the new pain. The defense maintained that the defendant’s performance of the minimally invasive surgery was within the standard of care for a young woman with a very difficult, chronic back condition that was likely to require additional treatment, and that the imagining studies demonstrated conclusively that no neural elements were impacted. After two weeks of trial, the jury returned a verdict for the defendant.
March 2018: Donna M. Marcin, Esq. & Megan E. Kures, Esq. – Medical Malpractice – Jury Verdict for Defense
In this case, the plaintiff underwent elective spine surgery performed by the defendants in 2006. Approximately six days after the surgery, the plaintiff began to exhibit symptoms of numbness in the groin area along with bowel and bladder dysfunction. An MRI and consultations were ordered and came back negative. Weeks later, the plaintiff was diagnosed with a leak in the dural membrane surrounding the spinal cord. Plaintiff’s counsel alleged that the defendants were negligent in their post-operative care attributing the plaintiff’s symptoms to a delayed dural leak. The defendants argued that bowel and bladder dysfunction were known risks of spine surgery which the plaintiff was informed of and consented to prior to surgery. They maintained that they were not negligent in their performance of the surgery and subsequent treatment. When cross-examined during trial, the plaintiff’s expert opined the standard of care was breached in the post-operative treatment of this complication. However, the expert did not attribute the leak to any injury caused during the surgery and opined the tear occurred post-operatively. The defense presented expert testimony establishing that the surgery was performed within the standard of care and that the defendants were actively and appropriately involved in the plaintiff’s post-operative care, including ordering numerous imaging studies and consultations. Expert testimony based on the evidence further established the symptoms experienced were not causally related to the dural leak and were more likely due to an unpreventable and unfortunate complication. After two weeks of trial, the jury returned a verdict for the defendants in approximately two hours.
February 2018: Alexandra Power, Esq. & Christopher Miller, Esq. – Construction Litigation – Defense Arbitration Award
This matter involved allegations that the defendant plumbing and mechanical contractor breached its standard of care in the removal and installation of mechanical equipment in the mechanical penthouse at a large luxury apartment building. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s improper workmanship led to a piping failure causing over $500,000 in property losses as a result of water damage. Following a two day arbitration, Alex and Chris were able to secure an arbitration award in favor of the defendant.
January 2018: Thomas (Toby) Bright, Esq. – Psychiatric Malpractice – Jury Verdict for Defense
Attorney Toby Bright recently obtained a defense verdict in a psychiatric malpractice case. The matter involved allegations that a patient committed suicide following discharge from a psychiatric hospital. The plaintiff alleged that a staff psychiatrist was negligent in his care and treatment of the patient. The plaintiff also alleged that a covering psychiatrist, represented by separate counsel, was negligent in discharging the patient prematurely. The plaintiff alleged that the hospital was vicariously liable for the actions of the staff psychiatrist and covering psychiatrist and also sought to pursue a theory of direct liability against the hospital. Prior to trial, HMDR&S obtained summary judgment in favor of the staff psychiatrist and also successfully obtained dismissal of the direct liability claim against the hospital at trial. The Defense presented expert testimony establishing that the covering psychiatrist discharged the patient properly with an appropriate aftercare plan. The jury returned a defense verdict after several days of evidence.
November 2017: Donna M. Marcin, Esq. & Brian E. Sopp, Esq. – Medical Malpractice – Jury Verdict for Defense
This matter involved allegations that on the third day following an appendectomy, the patient began experiencing respiratory distress caused by a bowel ileus and suffered an aspiration event leading to cardiac arrest and death. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant resident physician failed to timely respond to pages from the bedside nurse and that this delay contributed to the decedent’s aspiration event. The plaintiff further alleged that either the defendant resident or defendant attending, represented by separate counsel, should have intubated the patient earlier in the day to protect the patient’s airway in the event of aspiration. The defense presented expert testimony establishing that the defendant resident properly and timely responded to pages, that the decedent had a sudden deterioration of his condition, and that even if a different course of treatment had been initiated earlier in the day, it would not have changed the patient’s outcome. The jury returned a defense verdict in approximately 4 hours after several days of evidence.
November 2017: Megan E. Kures, Esq. – Dental Malpractice – Jury Verdict for Defense
This matter involved allegations that the defendant dentist failed to timely diagnosis and treat the plaintiff for periodontal disease. The plaintiff was a long-time patient of the defendant dentist. The defendant dentist diagnosed bone loss in the plaintiff’s upper jaw and referred her for consultation with a periodontist. The periodontist performed osseous surgery to address bone loss in six teeth and recommended gingival grafts for recession affecting several other teeth. The plaintiff alleged that the delay in diagnosis resulted in the need for more aggressive treatment of her disease and also alleged that it resulted in her requiring an extensive amount of cosmetic dentistry and chronic pain in her neck. The defense presented expert testimony establishing that the alleged delay was not causally related to the plaintiff’s claimed injuries. The jury returned a defense verdict in under three hours following a week-long trial.
August 2017: Robert R. Hamel, Jr., Esq. & Megan E. Kures, Esq. – Employment Discrimination – Jury Verdict for Defense
In this case, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant hospital discriminated against him and violated the terms of his residency agreement when it terminated him from the first year of its residency program. The evidence showed that shortly after entering the residency program, the plaintiff exhibited difficulties in certain aspects of his performance. The plaintiff was made aware of the concerns expressed by his supervisors and expectations were set for improvement. In large part, the plaintiff disagreed with the assessment of his performance. The program thereafter continued to receive concerning feedback about the plaintiff's performance. Approximately six months into the program, the plaintiff was notified that he would not be promoted to the second year of the program due to performance related concerns. The plaintiff asked for a review of this decision. Following review, the decision was upheld and a decision was also reached to terminate the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that he performed well throughout the program and that the concerns with his performance were illegitimate and based upon his race. He argued that other individuals in the program who had difficulties were treated differently. He also alleged that the hospital failed to follow its policies and procedures in reviewing the non-promotion decision and terminating his employment. Following a two week trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant hospital on both counts.
August 2017: Vincent P. Dunn, Esq. & Brian E. Sopp, Esq. – Products Liability in Healthcare – Dismissal
HMDR&S recently prevailed on a matter of first impression in Suffolk County Superior Court when it obtained the dismissal of a hospital sued in a claim alleging a product defect of a medical implant used during hip surgery. HMDR&S argued, and the judge agreed, that under Massachusetts law, claims for breach of warranty can only be brought against a “seller” of goods. Further, where a transaction involves both goods and services, the court looks to whether the “predominant factor, thrust, or purpose of the contract” is the rendition of services or the sale of goods. While Massachusetts courts had not specifically addressed whether a hospital may be liable for breach of warranty for supplying a medical device to a patient as part of treatment, the judge agreed that under the predominant factor test a hospital is not a seller of goods and dismissed the hospital.
February 2017: Megan E. Kures, Esq. & Donna M. Marcin, Esq. – Medical Malpractice – Jury Verdict for Defense
The defendant diagnosed the decedent with ulcerative colitis confined to his sigmoid colon in 2001 at the age of 22. The defendant followed the decedent for his ulcerative colitis for the next 8 years, during which time he made numerous recommendations for treatment, including multiple medications intended to achieve and maintain remission of the decedent’s disease. The decedent resisted the defendant’s treatment recommendations and opted for alternative therapies or no therapy at all. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, the defendant recommended follow-up colonoscopies. The decedent did not schedule a follow-up colonoscopy.
In January, 2009, the decedent agreed to undergo a sigmoidoscopy after experiencing a flare of his symptoms. Biopsies taken during the procedure revealed poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma of the colon. The decedent was ultimately diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer and died ten months later.
The defendant argued that the decedent’s aggressive cancer was unexpected even in the setting of a patient who declined recognized treatments for ulcerative colitis. The plaintiff argued that the defendant should have suspected cancer in light of multiple symptoms the decedent exhibited. The defendant argued that the symptoms were all expected in the context of a patient with untreated or under-treated ulcerative colitis.
After seven days of trial, the jury returned a verdict for the defendant in approximately two hours.
February 2017: Richard Shea, Esq. & Matthew Sweet, Esq. – Recreational Liability – Jury Verdict for Defense
Rick Shea and Matt Sweet recently secured a defense verdict on behalf of a client of the firm after a week-long jury trial in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts – Western Division. The claim involved a myriad of negligence based claims, including failure to warn, negligent training, supervision and selection of employees, as well as claims of gross negligence and recklessness, battery, and breach of contract. The Plaintiff’s spouse also brought a loss of consortium claim. The Plaintiff alleged a significant shoulder injury as a result of a fall during the training portion of a guided Segway Mountain Tour that Rick and Matt’s client offered as part of its summer Mountain Adventure Park. The Plaintiff alleged that the injuries from this accident were permanent and negatively impacted all aspects of his life. As a result of these injuries, the Plaintiffs sought a multi-million dollar award from the jury.
Rick and Matt were able to navigate a number of significant legal and procedural hurdles both in the lead up to the trial and during the trial itself, and ultimately secured a unanimous jury verdict after less than three hours of jury deliberations.
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