Justia Health Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
Almonte v. Kurl
This appeal arose from a wrongful death action. Plaintiffs alleged medical negligence. The civil suit and eventual trial took place in the wake of the death of Peter Almonte, who in 2000, killed himself approximately thirty-six hours after he was discharged from a hospital emergency room after an "severe psychological episode." Hospital personnel "decided" to honor Mr. Almonte's demand to be discharged, which plaintiffs alleged was a breach of the doctors' and hospital's duty arising from a patient/physician relationship. The jury returned a verdict of no negligence on the part of one of the defendants, Dr. Rita Kurl, M.D. Plaintiffs moved for a new trial, and defendants renewed their previously made motion for judgment as a matter of law. The trial court rejected the jury's findings as to the absence of negligence, but granted defendants motion because the court concluded that plaintiffs had failed to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. Accordingly, plaintiffs' motion was denied. On appeal, plaintiffs contended that the trial justice erred: (1) in granting defendants' Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law; (2) in refusing to give jury instructions with respect to the doctrine of spoliation; (3) in refusing plaintiffs' request for an evidentiary presumption on the issue of causation; and (4) in denying plaintiffs' Rule 59 motion for a new trial. Finding no basis upon which it could grant plaintiffs the relief they sought, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decisions. View "Almonte v. Kurl" on Justia Law
In re Steven D.
The state Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) filed petitions to terminate the parental rights of respondents Kathleen D. and Ronald D. with respect to their two children, Steven and Zachary, after the children were removed from the parents because Kathleen was in a medically induced coma and Ronald could not care for the children alone due to epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis. The trial court granted the petitions to terminate respondents' parental rights, finding that DCYF had shown that (1) the children would not be able to return safely to respondents' care within a reasonable period of time, (2) DCYF had made all reasonable efforts to reunite the children with respondents, and (3) it was in the best interests of the children that respondents' parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court vacated the decree of the family court, holding (1) the trial justice clearly erred in finding the DCYF made reasonable efforts to reunify Kathleen with her children, and (2) there was insufficient evidence to prove that Ronald's health conditions would meet requirements for a finding of parental unfitness or that services had been offered or received by Ronald to address this problem.
Malinou v. The Miriam Hospital
Plaintiff Martin Malinou filed a wrongful death and medical negligence action against Miriam Hospital and other medical professionals after his ninety-four year old mother died. Defendants filed motions for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff's claims were not supported by competent expert testimony and that plaintiff could not meet his burden of proof on the issues of breach of the standard of care and causation. The trial justice granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants. Plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) given plaintiff's repeated noncompliance with discovery orders, the trial justice did not abuse her discretion by precluding two doctors from testifying as expert witnesses; (2) because plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to support his underlying claims for medical negligence and wrongful death, plaintiff did not have a viable claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress or for loss of society and companionship; (3) adopting a loss-of-chance doctrine would not preclude the entry of summary judgment in favor of defendants; and (4) plaintiff did not raise a genuine issue of material fact in showing one of defendant doctors filed a false death certificate in violation of R.I. Gen. Laws 11-18-1.