Hospital loses appeal of $3.7 million medical malpractice award in Idaho Supreme Court

By Asia Mayfield | Sep 19, 2018

BOISE, Idaho (Legal Newsline) – A hospital's appeal of a $3.7 million award in a medical malpractice suit was unsuccessful in the Idaho Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s decision was filed on Sept. 6 and ruled that the 5th Judicial District in Twin Falls County did not err by denying defendant St. Luke’s Magic Valley Regional Medical Center's motion for mistrial.  

According to the ruling, plaintiff Joyce Herrett was hospitalized at St. Luke’s in December 2013 when she required a central venous catheter (CVC) removal. The nurse who performed the procedure testified that she had never removed a CVC before and consulted her supervisor, who allegedly told her "just to pull it out slowly." She removed it while Herrett was sitting upright. 

The court records that Herrett “suffered a stroke resulting from an air embolism introduced during the removal of the CVC. After being treated for the stroke, Herrett was readmitted to the rehabilitation unit.” Herrett and her husband filed their suit in February 2015.

St John’s admitted liability for the nurse’s mistake. However, the hospital maintains that the court erred in allowing certain witnesses to give testimony and by allowing Herrett to define the term “reckless” for the jury.  

“St. Luke’s contends that the district court applied the wrong standard in admitting... testimony regarding encephalomalacia and that the admission of this testimony should have resulted in a mistrial,” the court wrote. 

“Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 26 requires a summary of facts and opinions to which a non-retained expert is expected to testify... The rule does not require a disclosure of everything that the expert may testify about; rather, it requires disclosure of that which the expert is expected to testify about,” the ruling states.

The court also disagreed with St. Luke’s arguments regarding other contested witnesses. Their testimony was deemed valid. 

The justices did not find fault with the definition of recklessness provided to the jury.

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