Miss. SC rules med-mal plaintiff needed expert to testify

By Shanice Harris | May 16, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) – Defendants in a medical malpractice claim have won their appeal at the Mississippi Supreme Court, as the court ruled May 4 that the plaintiff failed to support his claims with expert testimony.

Hinds Behavioral Health and a doctor appealed the Hinds County Circuit Court’s order denying their motion for summary judgment, claiming the plaintiff failed to prove damage he suffered to his kidneys during a lithium treatment at the facility was the result of medical malpractice.

Audray Johnson filed a lawsuit against Hinds Behavioral Health in mid-2014. He was undergoing treatment under the care of Dr. Fawaz Abdraddo, who was under contract with Hinds. 

Because of the alleged damage, Johnson filed a motion “to disregard requirement of having a medical expert,” according to court documents. The defendants responded with their own motion, stating that the law requires expert testimony.

In October 2014, attorney Felecia Perkins entered the lawsuit on behalf of Johnson, but soon after filed a motion to withdraw from the case as Johnson’s lawyer. The court granted the request, and Johnson represented himself.

Before the summary judgment hearing, Johnson filed a motion to rid the case of Judge William Gowan. He accused him of abusive behavior and moving the case too quickly to make a proper ruling. The plaintiff also asked for time to appoint a medical expert whom he claimed he had waiting in the wings.

Gowan stated, “The undersigned having bent over backwards to explain to the plaintiff in great detail the requirements of a medical malpractice case, i.e., the specific requirement of a medical expert, and plaintiff having perceived this as being 'abusive and rude,' the undersigned, so as to avoid any misconceived ideas regarding unfairness of the undersigned or the judicial process hereby recuses himself from [this] cause of action.”

The case was then given to Judge Winston Kidd to oversee. In February 2015, Kidd heard both arguments from the plaintiff and defendants. He informed Johnson that he had 60 days to produce a medical expert or the case would be dismissed.

The defendants petitioned the court because they claimed the trial court made a huge mistake in denying their motion for summary judgment. They claimed that since Johnson failed to support the medical malpractice claims, the case should be thrown out because they don’t have an expert testimony.

The state Supreme Court upheld the Mississippi law that states that to prevail in a malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove his or her injury through an expert testimony. Johnson was not able to do so. 

An expert is needed to comment on the injuries that Johnson alleged. Because of this, there was insufficient evidence in the case. 

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