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Appellate Court Says That a Tennessee Trial Court Was Correct in Ordering New Trial After Doctor Tried to Shift Blame for Alleged Negligence

Doctors and nurses spend many years learning the professions. This does not mean, however, that they never make mistakes. They do, much more often that the general public would like to believe.

When someone is hurt or passes away because of a healthcare practitioner’s mistake, the individual or the family of a deceased patient may be able to seek monetary compensation via an east Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuit. Time of the essence in a medical negligence case, as there are strict deadlines for filing a claim.

The first step in a malpractice case is usually to retain a qualified medical expert to examine the patient’s medical records. If that professional is of the opinion that the would-be defendant breached the applicable standard of care, the next step is filing suit in the appropriate court.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the Circuit Court for Hamblen County, the plaintiff was the husband of a woman who died from an undiagnosed aortic dissection in early 2013. The plaintiff filed suit, asserting a medical malpractice claim against the defendant cardiologist. The case was tried to a jury, which entered a defense verdict. The plaintiff moved for a new trial on the basis that, during his testimony at trial, the defendant had shifted the blame for the decedent’s death onto a non-party, even though he had not pled comparative fault in his pleadings. The case proceeded to a second trial, which found in the plaintiff’s favor. The defendant sought appellate review, arguing that he had not attempted to shift the blame onto a non-party as the trial court had found before ordering the retrial.

The Court’s Decision on Appeal

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville affirmed the judgment of the trial court. The defendant argued that, although he did testify at the first trial that the nurses on duty never notified him of the decedent’s ongoing chest pain, this was not an attempt to shift the blame for the decedent’s death onto a non-party. In ruling in the plaintiff’s favor on appeal, the court acknowledged that there had been a factual dispute at trial regarding whether the defendant had been advised that the decedent was experiencing pain after he had left the hospital for the day. According the defendant, a nurse had called him but only to ask if he had any orders for medication “in case” the decedent needed it. The nurse, on the other hand, testified that she had told the defendant “in no uncertain terms” that the decedent was continuing to experience chest pain.

According to the court, when the defendant testified, point-blank, that he was never notified of the decedent’s pain and that, had it been so notified, he would have re-evaluated her, he was attempting to shift blame onto the nurse. Because he had not pleaded comparative fault against any other medical providers in his answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, the court found that the trial court had acted appropriately in granting a new trial to the plaintiff following the jury’s verdict in the defendant’s favor.

Consult a Medical Negligence Attorney

Losing a loved one because of a negligent physician can be one of the most painful things that a family can experience. Unless the careless doctor is held accountable for his or her actions, it is quite possible that similar mistakes will be made in the future, causing untold pain and heartache to other patients and their families. If you have questions about the procedure for filing an east Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor, nurse, or hospital that has caused injury or death to you or a loved one, call the Hartsoe Law Firm at 865-524-5657, or contact us through this website. We handle cases in Knoxville, Maryville, and the surrounding area, and we look forward to serving your family during this difficult time.

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