JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) – The Mississippi Supreme Court recently found in favor of a group of health care defendants in the medical malpractice case of a woman who ended up on a ventilator days after knee surgery.
The high court found that the plaintiff in the case, Janice Phelps, didn't support her medical malpractice claim with sworn expert testimony about whether defendants in the case breached the applicable standard of care. The high court reversed a trial court's denial of summary judgment in the case.
"While Phelps argues she retained a medical expert prior to filing suit and she responded to discovery requests identifying her expert and providing a summary of opinions, she failed to produce any sworn expert testimony by affidavit or otherwise," the six-page opinion said.
The defendants in the case are Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, Premier Medical Group of Mississippi and Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center and two physicians, Jeffery K. LeDuff and Jeff Almand.
Justice Dawn Henderson Beam wrote the opinion for the state high court's majority. Chief Justice William L. "Bill" Waller Jr. and justices Michael K. Randolph, Leslie D. King, Josiah Dennis Coleman, James D. Maxwell II, Robert P. Chamberlin and David M. Ishee concurred in the opinion. Justice James W. Kitchens did not participate.
The case stems from arthroscopic surgery performed on Phelps' left knee by Almand May 2, 2013, at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, according to the background portion of the Supreme Court's opinion. Phelps complained of shortness of breath soon after surgery and LeDuff ordered a chest X-ray and placed Phelps on oxygen. She was discharged May 4, 2013, but two days later went to Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center's emergency room, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia and, after she was placed on a ventilator, Phelps showed signs of a stroke.
Later in the month, Phelps was diagnosed with cebrovascular accident and ventilator dependence before she was transferred to Baton Rouge Rehabilitation Hospital.
Phelps filed her complaint in April 2015 alleging medical malpractice against defendants in the case.
In May 2017, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston L. Kidd entered issued an order without an opinion denying the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The defendants' interlocutory appeal followed, arguing the trial court was wrong in denying the motion for summary judgment and allowing Phelps more time to provide a medical-expert affidavit without a specific request.
"Although defendants raised these two issues on appeal, we find the second issue moot because, even with the extension of time, Phelps never submitted a medical-expert affidavit," the high court's opinion said. "Therefore, the sole issue on appeal is whether the court erred in failing to grant summary judgment in favor of defendants despite Phelps's failure to provide any sworn expert testimony to support her medical-malpractice claim."