Defense Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case Affirmed Based on Impeached Expert Witness Testimony

Earlier this month, the federal circuit court of appeals overseeing both the northern and southern districts of Indiana issued an opinion in a medical malpractice case illustrating the importance of expert testimony in Indiana medical malpractice lawsuits. The case was brought to the court by the plaintiff’s appeal, which claimed that the lower court had erred in finding in favor of the defense. However, the appellate court agreed that the testimony of the defendant’s expert witness was supported by the patient’s medical records and that the plaintiff’s expert witness was impeached as to his failure to consult relevant medical literature. As a result, the court affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendant.

WheelchairThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the wife of a man who died shortly after he was admitted into the care of a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. Initially, the plaintiff’s husband was at the hospital for routine lab work, but when the results came back abnormal, he was admitted. At the time, the plaintiff’s husband suffered from a number of medical conditions, including morbid obesity, respiratory acidosis, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.

The plaintiff’s husband was not complaining of anything specific, but the plaintiff told hospital workers that she wanted someone with him at all times because he “was not acting like himself.” The hospital determined that the plaintiff’s husband was not in need of a personal sitter, which is normally only necessary in cases involving psychotic and delirious patients.

The plaintiff’s husband eventually complained that it was uncomfortable for him to lie in the bed, so hospital employees allowed him to sit in a wheelchair next to the bed. On January 1, 2008, hospital staff found the plaintiff’s husband unresponsive in the wheelchair. He had suffered a cardiac arrest. He never regained consciousness and died a short time later.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice case against the VA, arguing that the inadequate medical care the VA provided to her husband resulted in his death. At trial, both sides presented expert witnesses who testified in their favor. However, the plaintiff’s witness – a family friend – was questioned about whether he reviewed relevant medical literature on the plaintiff’s husband’s condition, and he indicated that he did not. The judge found in favor of the VA, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the case was affirmed. The court initially noted that the lower court’s factual determinations would only be reversed if the plaintiff could show that it was clearly erroneous. Here, the court held that it could not make such a finding. The court explained that the lower court judge was proper to credit the testimony of the defendant’s expert witness over the plaintiff’s, given the fact that the plaintiff’s expert witness was impeached regarding the review of the medical literature. As a result, the lower court’s finding in favor of the VA will stand.

Have You Been Provided Inadequate Medical Care?

If you or a loved one has recently experienced what you believe to have been inadequate or negligent medical care, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Indiana medical malpractice lawsuit. The dedicated Indiana personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience handling a wide range of medical malpractice cases, including those against the VA and other government entities. Call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

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