North Carolina’s Court of Appeals recently held that an injured plaintiff can proceed with his medical malpractice action against a thoracic surgeon in Durham County. The defendant hospital and surgeon moved for directed verdict after the injured plaintiff presented their case. The judge awarded a directed verdict to the defendants based on the testimony of the plaintiff’s witness who compared the standard of care at the hospital where the injury occurred to similar hospitals across the nation.
The injured party was a delivery truck driver who began to experience pain and numbness in his left arm. He was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition where there is inadequate nerve supply due to the first rib. The injured party was referred to a surgeon who took out his second rib instead of his first rib and failed to inform the driver when it was discovered by x-rays taken after the surgery. The injured party continued to have pain since the condition was not relieved, and learned of the wrongly removed rib at a post-surgical visit for an infection. Even after a second operation by a different doctor the injured party continued to have pain, numbness, and limited mobility in his left arm.
North Carolina statute N.C. Gen. Stat. Sec. 90-21.12 (2009) requires anyone suing for a personal injury caused by medical malpractice to prove by a greater weight of the evidence that they suffered harm by a health care provider who failed to give care at the standard of practice common among members of the same health care profession with similar training and experience in the same or similar communities at the time the medical procedure that led to the injury occurred. In this case the judge determined, that a directed verdict in favor of the defendant should be given based on the expert’s testimony which compared the medical care of the defendant doctor and hospital to a national standard rather than the community standard of care the North Carolina statute requires.
In this decision, the Court of Appeals looked at a North Carolina Supreme Court decision that determined an expert standard of care testimony met the requirements of N.C. Gen. Stat. Sec. 90-21.12. In that case, the expert looked at the defendant’s peer institutions for a sense of physician skill and training and the hospital’s facilities, equipment, and funding, and did not limit his comparison to hospitals within a certain geographic region. (See Rucker v. High Point Mem’l Hosp., 285 N.C. 519, 206 S.E.2d 196 (1974). Based on this precedence, the Court of Appeals determined that the lower court erred in their assessment, and reversed the directed verdict which allows the injured party to continue his medical malpractice case against the defendant hospital and physician.
North Carolina Personal Injury attorneys Arlene Auger and Herbert Auger know the importance of fighting for their clients for the compensation they are due, even in the face of adverse court rulings. With several years of personal injury litigation and experience, they understand the intricacies of medical evidence and the value of using an excellent expert witness who can explain the complexities of your case to a jury. If you have been injured contact the attorneys at Auger & Auger today for a free, confidential consultation at (888) 487-0835.
MORE BLOG POSTS:
Allegations Of Patient Abuse At A North Carolina Skilled Nursing Facility Prompt Lawsuit, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 31, 2013
Mistreated Victims of Sexual Assault at North Carolina College Raise Questions of Accountability and Liability, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 11, 2013