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Tennessee Court of Appeals Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Medical Malpractice Case, Saying “Sudden Emergency” Instruction Should Not Have Been Given

sleeping infant

Medical mistakes can cause injuries or death both to the old and to the young, but some of the most heartbreaking east Tennessee medical malpractice cases involve situations in which a doctor’s mistake causes a child to either die in utero or shortly after birth.

Obstetricians fight hard against a finding of liability in such cases, urging the jury to believe that they did everything they could under the circumstances. While this may be true in some situations, it is not always so. Ultimately, it is up to the jury to decide whether a mistake was made and, if so, the compensation to which a family is entitled as a result.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently under consideration by a Tennessee appeals court, the plaintiff was a woman who filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants, a hospital and several doctors, in the Circuit Court of Washington County, after one of the plaintiff’s twin infants died just hours after delivery in 2011. After a six-day trial, the case ended with a jury verdict in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court had abused its discretion with regard to the admissibility of certain evidence and that the trial court had committed a reversible error by providing a jury instruction on the sudden emergency doctrine.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case for a new trial. The plaintiff argued on appeal that the trial court had acted improperly when it excluded the testimony of two witnesses; according to the plaintiff, the testimony was offered to show circumstances surrounding the alleged act of malpractice rather than to establish the standard of care. The court agreed that the testimony was relevant to establish that one of the defendants had the “presence of mind and the time, albeit minimal, to consider her options” but determined that the testimony was inadmissible hearsay. Additionally, any supposed error was harmless because other testimony was admitted as to the conversation at issue.

On the issue of the sudden emergency doctrine instruction, however, the court found that the trial court had committed a reversible error. Since the evidence showed that the defendant physicians had time to reflect and think about the best course of action before proceeding, the jury instruction on the doctrine was improper.

Talk to a Knoxville Birth Injury Attorney

Medical malpractice cases are full of challenges, and this is especially so in cases involving injuries to children. If you believe that your child suffered a birth injury or wrongful death due to medical negligence, the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., can help you investigate the facts of your case to determine whether you have a viable claim. Call us at 865-524-5657 to schedule a free consultation in our Knoxville or Maryville offices. We serve all of east Tennessee!

Related Blog Posts:

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

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