In a split decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court has affirmed the dismissal of Ferguson v. University of Mississippi Medical Center, a wrongful death by medical malpractice lawsuit that was filed against medical providers who allegedly caused the death of the plaintiff’s brother shortly after he was taken by ambulance to a hospital for treatment in September 2008. In this most recent ruling, which the court ruled 6-2 to affirm the dismissal of the case, the sole remaining plaintiff and brother of the decedent was denied recovery for giving false testimony in a deposition that was taken before he was added as a plaintiff to the case. Because of this ruling, nobody will be able to recover any damages based on the alleged negligence of the defendants.
The case was initially filed after the death of the plaintiff’s brother, who experienced a medical emergency in September 2008 and was taken by ambulance to the defendant hospital, unable to feel his legs. According to the ruling, the decedent waited for hours at the defendant hospital but received no treatment despite his serious condition. The man was eventually taken to a different hospital, where he immediately received treatment, but he died two days later of kidney failure, which could have allegedly been prevented had the man had received timely treatment at the first hospital.
The Brother was Initially Left out of the Case
At the initial filing of the case, the only plaintiffs included were the decedent’s mother and sister. His brother was not listed as a plaintiff. When the mother and sister were asked if the decedent had any other relatives, they each testified that he did not, despite the fact that the family all lived together in one home. During this initial case, the defendants discovered that the mother and sister were intentionally excluding the brother from being a plaintiff and had lied in their deposition testimony regarding his existence. Based on the first two plaintiffs’ dishonesty and false testimony, the judge dismissed the case and prevented either the mother or sister from recovery.
The Brother Is Allowed as a Plaintiff, But Prior False Testimony Comes Back to Haunt Him
As part of the initial ruling, the trial court noted that the brother (who had previously been excluded from the case although he was a rightful plaintiff) could join as a plaintiff and seek recovery for his brother’s death. Unfortunately for the brother, he had given false testimony in a deposition that was taken concerning his knowledge of his relationship to his mother during the earlier part of the case.
Presumably to help his sister and mother keep the case alive after they were accused of lying about the brother’s existence, the brother testified that he always had been told that his mother was actually his grandmother, and his true mother was actually his aunt, asserting that the first two plaintiffs didn’t disclose his existence in order to keep a “family secret.” Once he became a plaintiff, the brother admitted that he had known the identity of his true mother for much longer than he previously stated.
The Defense Jumps on the Inconsistent Testimony and Gets the Case Dismissed
After the only remaining plaintiff admitted to giving false testimony, the attorneys for the defendants managed to have the case dismissed in its entirety, leaving all members of the family without relief after the death of their loved one. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed that the trial court was justified in dismissing the case as a punishment for the dishonesty, although two of the judges on the court dissented from the ruling, stating that it was too harsh to impose the same punishment on the brother as the sister and mother, who had exhibited a pattern of dishonesty while they were plaintiffs in the case.
Plaintiffs Need to Be Honest and Straightforward with Their Counsel
A lesson to be learned from this ruling is the importance for malpractice plaintiffs to be open and honest with their attorney when discussing a medical malpractice or wrongful death case. If the plaintiffs in this case had been honest with their attorneys and in the depositions, their chances of recovery would not likely have been hurt by the information they tried to hide, although by lying under oath they have eliminated any chance of recovery. Malpractice victims must be honest with their counsel about all aspects of a case, especially regarding any factors that the plaintiff feels may bear negatively on the case. A qualified Indianapolis medical malpractice attorney will likely have a better chance of winning if they are prepared to respond to negative allegations against their client or case.
Are you a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you believe that you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice, contacting a qualified Indiana medical malpractice attorney to assist you will help you be fairly compensated for your claim. The Indianapolis malpractice lawyers at Parr, Richey, Obremskey, Frandsen & Patterson have years of experience getting fair compensation for our clients, and we are not afraid to fight for our clients when the defendants are not being reasonable. At Parr, Richey, Obremskey, Frandsen & Patterson, we represent clients throughout the Midwest in most medical malpractice and other personal injury actions. Call us today at 888-765-7411 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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