Tennessee Court of Appeals Reverses Defense Verdict in Birth Injury Case

Many Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuits involve tragic situations, but those involving young children and babies injured at birth can be some of the most heartbreaking. Doctors and their insurance companies are often quick to deny liability and shift blame for what happened.

Cases against doctors and medical providers can be very challenging, so it is important to consult with an experienced medical negligence attorney if your find yourself (or a close family member) the victim of a medical error.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in Hamilton County, Tennessee, the plaintiffs were the parents of a minor child who suffered permanent injuries during his birth. These injuries left the child with only partial use of one of his arms, as well as other complications. The parents filed suit against the health services provider for whom the delivering obstetrician was employed, alleging that the doctor had been negligent during the delivery. Their allegations also included an accusation that the doctor used a vacuum extractor without first obtaining the plaintiffs’ informed consent.

The case was tried to a jury and resulted in a verdict in favor of the defendant. The trial court then ordered the plaintiffs to pay $81,343 to the defendant as reimbursement for the costs of defending the litigation. The plaintiff appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville vacated the trial court’s judgment upon the jury’s verdict and remanded the case to the lower tribunal for further proceedings. According to the appellate court, the trial court committed a reversible error when it allowed testimony in violation of Tennessee’s “collateral source rule” pertaining to the payment of medical expenses or other costs by a third party (such as an insurance company or a public school via the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

The trial court had placed great emphasis on the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had characterized the penalty for not having health insurance as a “tax, ” but the appeals court found that the characterization of the federal penalty for not carrying health insurance (in violation of the Affordable Care Act) was irrelevant to the question of whether evidence of a plaintiff’s health insurance should be presented to the trier of fact.

The court also found that the trial court had acted improperly when it issued a pretrial, blanket order regarding argument by analogy. The court also noted that “foreseeability, not foresight” is an essential element of the duty of due care in a tort case.

Contact a Tennessee Injury Law Attorney

A doctor’s mistake can result in a lifetime of pain and financial hardship on the victim. This is especially true in cases in which an infant is harmed during the birth process. If you have recently had a baby that suffered unexpected complications due to a medical mistake during labor and delivery, you should talk to a lawyer about the process of holding the negligent health care providers liable. At the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., we handle birth injury and other medical malpractice cases. For a free consultation, call us now at 865-524-5657.

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