Iowa SC rules in favor of hospital in case over credentialing

Jessica M. Karmasek Apr. 19, 2012, 2:45pm


DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - The Iowa Supreme Court last week upheld a lower court's ruling in favor of a hospital in a lawsuit over negligent credentialing.

On Friday, the Court affirmed the Pottawattamie County District Court's judgment in favor of defendants Jennie Edmundson Memorial Hospital and Nebraska Methodist Health System Inc.

Plaintiffs Rhonda and Bob Hall sued surgeon Eric Bendorf, alleging negligent performance of a pancreaticoduodenectomy, also known as a Whipple procedure.

Rhonda Hall underwent the procedure -- intended to discern whether a mass situated on the neck of her pancreas was malignant and to remove it if it was not -- in April 2007.

The couple also sued the hospital, contending it negligently granted credentials to Bendorf.

The heart of the Halls' claim against the hospital was that Bendorf did not have sufficient experience performing the Whipple procedure to support a grant of privileges for the procedure in 2007.

He had performed only four Whipple procedures in the previous 10 years and none in the three years preceding Hall's surgery, according to the court record.

In their appeal to the state's high court, the plaintiffs argued that the district court applied the wrong standard of care in adjudicating their claim of negligent credentialing against the hospital.

The Court, in its 12-page opinion, concluded that the court applied the standard of care advocated by the plaintiffs, and substantial evidence supported its conclusion that the hospital did not breach the standard of care.

"Our review of the record and the district court's ruling does not support the Halls' argument," Justice Daryl L. Hecht wrote.

"The district court clearly concluded the appropriate standard of care under the circumstances of this case was the lay standard advocated by the Halls -- 'reasonable care under the circumstances.'"

As for the substantial evidence, "The record demonstrates that JEMH researched Dr. Bendorf's credentials and surgical record extensively before renewing his privileges to conduct general surgery," Hecht wrote.

"Dr. Bendorf's application received several levels of review from various committees within the hospital, many of them including surgeons and physicians who had special knowledge regarding whether a surgeon with Dr. Bendorf's experience would be qualified to perform a Whipple procedure even though he had not performed one in the recent past."

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