In its decision filed on May 5, 2017, the Court of Appeals of Ohio Sixth Appellate District Lucas County (“Ohio Appellate Court”) affirmed the trial court’s granting summary judgment to the defendant hospital in a medical malpractice claim involving a patient’s fractured hip that resulted from his fall in his hospital room, holding that the plaintiff’s evidence of causation was speculative and therefore the defendant Ohio hospital was entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law.
The Ohio hospital medical malpractice lawsuit was filed by the administrator of the estate of the former patient. The patient was 77-years-old and suffering from coronary issues and memory loss at the time of his admission to the defendant Ohio hospital. The patient was determined to be at “high risk” for falls and therefore the defendant hospital’s fall prevention policy required assigning him a room near the nurse’s station, leaving his door open, instructing him to call for assistance, providing him with assistance with transfers and ambulation, and considering the use of a bed alarm.
Three days after admission to the hospital, the patient fell in his room and the only witness to the fall other than the patient himself was a nurse who died before providing a statement regarding the fall. However, the nurse charted the incident as follows: “pt found walking into bathroom per self. Was asked if he needed any help. pt proceeded towards toilet, lost balance and fell. Was asked if anything hurt, said only rt inner upper leg. Abrasion noted on rt fa. No other apparent injuries noted.”
The patient was subsequently diagnosed as having suffered a right hip fracture that required surgery. The patient was transferred to a rehabilitation facility and was later discharged home. He died approximately nine months later from congestive heart failure.
The administrator of the patient’s estate subsequently filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death claim against the hospital (the wrongful death claim was later voluntarily dismissed). The defendant hospital then filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff was not able to establish a prima facie case of medical negligence because the plaintiff’s arguments regarding the elements of breach and causation were speculative. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant hospital, and the plaintiff appealed.
The Ohio Appellate Court Decision
The Ohio Appellate Court stated that the plaintiff’s nurse expert acknowledged that there was no requirement that a nurse either be in the patient’s room or near the patient’s room. Therefore, there is no evidence that a nurse in the patient’s room, or any hospital personnel, would have been alerted and arrived in the patient’s room any sooner than the events at issue.
The Ohio Appellate Court agreed with the defendant hospital that any inference that its nurse breached the standard of care by failing to assist the patient is pure speculation and does not create an inference of negligence: the fact that questions regarding the incident are not capable of an answer because of the nurse’s death before she made a statement regarding the incident leads to the inescapable conclusion that no issues of fact remain for trial, and the plaintiff’s nurse expert’s opinions on causation are too speculative to set forth a prima facie case of medical negligence.
Source Miller v. Toledo Hosp., 2017-Ohio-2691.
If you or a loved one suffered serious injury (or worse) as a result of medical negligence in Ohio or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an Ohio medical malpractice attorney, or a medical malpractice attorney in your state, who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Click on the “Contact Us Now” tab to the right, visit our website, or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice attorneys in your state who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.