State Supreme Court Rules that Post-Mortem Misconduct by Doctor Is Medical Malpractice, Reverses Damages Award

The Supreme Court of the State of Texas recently released an opinion holding that a defendant’s actions in improperly obtaining a woman’s consent for a private autopsy of her husband, who died while under their care, was a medical malpractice claim. Although the ruling in the case of Christus Health v. Carswell may arguably expand the definition of medical malpractice within the state to include actions taken after a patient’s death, the ultimate result of the court’s ruling was to reverse a judgment entered in favor of the plaintiff. The judgment was reversed because the court found that the claims alleging the post-mortem malpractice were not made within the two-year statute of limitations for health care liability claims in the state of Texas.

Plaintiff’s Husband Found Unresponsive in Hospital Bed after Receiving Narcotic Pain Medication from Doctors

According to the facts discussed in the court’s opinion, the case was initially filed after the plaintiff’s husband was found dead in his hospital bed after being admitted to the hospital with complaints of severe pain. He was initially prescribed narcotics to treat his pain, but they were discontinued after he suffered an adverse reaction. Subsequently, he was given additional pain medication by a different medical provider after the severe pain returned, and he was found dead shortly thereafter.

After her husband’s death, the plaintiff requested that an autopsy be performed at the county medical examiner’s office, although she was told that the medical examiner’s office declined to perform the autopsy. A subsequent autopsy performed at another facility operated by the defendant failed to include a toxicology screening. The plaintiff alleged that the failure to include a toxicology screening in the autopsy prevented the autopsy from determining if a drug overdose or adverse reaction contributed to his death.

Plaintiff Files Medical Malpractice Case Within the Statute of Limitations, but Allegations of Post-Mortem Misconduct Were Not Included Until Too Late

After her husband’s death, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant hospital and medical providers, alleging that their negligence caused her husband’s death. She subsequently amended her complaint three times, adding allegations that the hospital’s misrepresentations concerning the availability of a public autopsy also constituted misconduct for which she should receive damages.

This allegation was not added to the complaint until after the three-year statute of limitations had expired, but the trial court allowed a jury to hear the claim, ruling that it was not actually a medical malpractice claim and was not foreclosed by the medical malpractice statute of limitations. The defendants appealed the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court and successfully argued that the claim concerning the post-mortem misconduct was a medical malpractice claim, and thus barred by the statute of limitations. As a result of this ruling, the plaintiff will not receive any compensation for her husband’s death or the defendant’s misconduct.

Medical Providers Who Negligently Prescribe and Administer Narcotics May be Liable for Their Medical Malpractice

Over the last decade, prescriptions of opioid pain medications and other narcotics have risen, and overdose deaths from these medications have skyrocketed. Medical providers who prescribe dangerous doses of these medicines to patients, or don’t adequately inform patients of the risk of overdose and addiction, may be accountable for an overdose death if it occurs. Families of the victims of prescription opioid overdoses, especially those occurring while the patient is in a hospital, should consult a South Florida medical malpractice attorney to discuss a possible claim for compensation.

Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice, a qualified attorney can help you seek the compensation that you deserve for your loss. The Miami medical malpractice attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can aggressively present your case to the court and help you pursue the fair settlement or judgment that you deserve. The South Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank represent people in Miami and throughout South Florida in medical malpractice and other negligence cases. If you have been injured, contact us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or via our online contact form for a free consultation. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Wrongful Death Claim, May 12, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Plaintiff’s Underinsured Motorist Claim Denied by Appellate Court, May 27, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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