On March 7, 2017, a federal judge in Connecticut held that allowing a patient to fall off of an operating room table was ordinary negligence and not medical negligence because preventing that patient from falling off the operating room table was not something that required any medical training at all but rather was a matter of being attentive and exercising common sense. The judge stated, “One need not have medical training nor exercise medical judgment to prevent a patient from falling off an operating room table.”
The plaintiff was originally injured while shopping at a Wal-Mart store when a display of one-gallon apple juice boxes fell over onto her, allegedly causing her to suffer injuries to her cervical, dorsal, and lumbar spine; injuries to her head, left shoulder, right hip, right buttock, and right leg; disc protrusions to her lumbar spine; radiculopathy; posttraumatic headaches; post-concussive syndrome; pain; spasms; weakness; and, limited range of motion in her neck, back, head, left shoulder, right hip, right buttock and right leg.
On June 16, 2015, the plaintiff was admitted to the defendant hospital to undergo surgery. Employees of the defendant hospital placed the plaintiff on an operating room table and administered sedation. After the plaintiff was sedated but before the surgical procedure began, she fell, or partially fell, off the operating room table, allegedly suffering a head injury, a concussion, a laceration to the head, cognitive loss, headaches, and cognitive impairments.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against Walmart for the injuries she sustained. Walmart filed a Third-Party Complaint against the defendant hospital alleging that the June 16, 2015 incident was caused by the carelessness and negligence of the defendant hospital’s employees, servants, and/or agents by their failure to properly secure the plaintiff to the operating room table, by failing to adequately monitor her movements, and by failing to provide adequate staffing so that the plaintiff could be watched after she was sedated. Walmart further alleged that if the plaintiff prevails on her personal injury claim against Walmart, then the defendant hospital is liable for all or a proportionate share of the liability.
The defendant hospital filed a motion to dismiss the Third-Party Complaint because Walmart did not attach to it a good faith certification and obtain a good faith expert opinion letter as required by Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-190a. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 52-190a(a) requires that prior to filing a claim for medical malpractice, a plaintiff must first conduct a “reasonable inquiry . . . to determine that there are grounds for a good faith belief that there has been negligence in the care or treatment of the claimant” and “[t]o show the existence of such good faith, the claimant or the claimant’s attorney . . . shall obtain a written and signed opinion of a similar health care provider . . . that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence and includes a detailed basis for the formation of such opinion,” which Walmart had failed to do.
The federal judge stated that he had to decide whether the alleged negligence is of a specialized medical nature that arises out of the medical professional-patient relationship and whether the alleged negligence is substantially related to medical diagnosis or treatment and involved the exercise of medical judgment.
The federal judge stated that the proper positioning of the patient is a material step in performing the surgery and is substantially related to the medical treatment, i.e. the surgery, and that the proper positioning of the patient involves the exercise of medical judgment, since the positioner must take into account the particular procedure that is being performed. However, it is not the positioning of the plaintiff on the operating room table that is the basis for the Third-Party Complaint: had the plaintiff been positioned precisely as she was but not been allowed to fall off the table, Walmart would not be bringing its third-party claim because its third-party claim is based on the defendant hospital’s failure to prevent the plaintiff from falling off the operating room table.
The federal judge stated that preventing the plaintiff from falling off the operating room table was not something that required any medical training at all but rather was a matter of being attentive and exercising common sense. The federal judge therefore denied the defendant hospital’s motion to dismiss.
Source Trella v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Civ. No. 3:15-cv-1211
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