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Tennessee Court of Appeals Finds Reversible Error in Birth Injury Malpractice Case Due to Hospital’s Failure to Disclose New and Different Testimony by Nurses

mother and baby

When a child’s life is catastrophically altered by a birth injury or brain injury just as his or her life is beginning, there is untold heartbreak for the family.

While money can never “fix” what went wrong, a fair settlement or judgment in a Tennessee medical malpractice case can help offset the considerable expenditures that the family will incur due the child’s injury or disability in the coming years. Unfortunately, medical providers often resist a finding of liability, urging juries to believe that these types of injuries “just happen sometimes” without it being anyone’s fault.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate court case originating in the Circuit Court for Knox County, Tennessee, the plaintiff was a minor child (acting through his natural parent and next friend) who filed suit against the defendants, a medical doctor, a perinatal center, and a hospital, seeking monetary compensation for injuries the plaintiff allegedly suffered due to an allergic reaction suffered by his mother during labor in 2009. According to the plaintiff, the defendant doctor’s treatment fell below the standard of care because he failed to administer a certain medication when the plaintiff suffered the allergic reaction, and the hospital was liable for its nurses’ failure to monitor and document the plaintiff’s blood pressure readings. As a result of these alleged acts of negligence, the plaintiff claimed that he suffered a brain injury that left him with cerebral palsy and developmental delays.

The case was tried to a jury, which entered a defense verdict. The trial court entered judgment upon the jury’s verdict and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiff sought review from the appellate court, raising several issues, including whether the trial court erred in allowing the admission of certain testimony at trial.

The Court of Appeals’ Decision

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. According to the appellate court, the trial court judge erred in admitting previously undisclosed testimony from certain nurses. Since this testimony was inconsistent with these witnesses’ earlier deposition testimony, the defendant hospital had a duty to supplement and disclose to the plaintiff the fact that the witnesses’ memory was allegedly refreshed by certain photographs, but it failed to do so. The court found the hospital’s argument that it had no such duty because the nurses were not “parties” to the lawsuit “disingenuous.”

According to the court, the hospital had a duty to supplement its discovery responses once it learned that the nurses had “not only new, but different testimony” to offer. In so holding, the court noted that the nurses were employees of the hospital and that it was their conduct that gave rise to the hospital’s purported liability in this health care liability action.

Need to Talk to a Knoxville Malpractice Lawyer?

If your child has been injured by an act of negligence or medical malpractice, you should talk to an attorney about the possibility of pursuing a claim for compensation for your child’s medical expenses, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other damages. East Tennessee child injury attorney Mark Hartsoe at the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., has offices in both Knoxville and Maryville, and he will be glad to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. Just call 865-524-5657 and ask for an appointment.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Supreme Court Rules in Plaintiff’s Favor as to Procedural Requirement in Medical Malpractice Case

Tennessee Appeals Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Health Care Liability Case, Holding that Statute of Repose Was Extended by Child’s Pre-Suit Notice