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Medical malpractice judgment upheld by appellate court

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the $1.25 million judgment against a gastroenterologist after a patient brought a medical malpractice claim for a missed cancer diagnosis. The judges found the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in excluding certain evidence.

In John Morse, M.D. v. Jeffrey Wayne Davis, No. 84A05-1103-CT-140, Dr. John Morse appealed the verdict against him – which had been reduced from $2.5 million to the statutory cap of $1.25 million – after a jury found he committed medical malpractice when he failed to order tests or diagnose colon cancer in patient Jeffrey Davis.

Davis visited Morse, who was his mother’s doctor when she had colon cancer, in 2004 complaining of nausea, upper stomach pain and occasional rectal bleeding. Morse performed some tests, but did not order a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. A year later, Davis came back to have medication refilled before he moved to Arizona. Davis’ records don’t note his family history of colon cancer, that Davis reported rectal bleeding or that he reported any other symptoms at his follow-up visit. When Davis moved to Arizona, he visited another doctor, who performed a colonoscopy and found advanced stage four cancer in his bowel, lymph nodes and liver.

There was conflicting evidence as to whether Davis told Morse about his rectal bleeding and that his mother had colon cancer. At a pre-trial hearing, Davis moved to strike two defense witnesses – a doctor who saw Davis for unrelated medical treatment, and a nurse who wrote down Davis’ complaints during the follow-up office visit with Morse. Both would have supported Morse’s argument that Davis was contributorily negligent by not reporting his symptoms. Davis also moved to exclude from evidence a medical history questionnaire submitted to the Arizona doctor which did not indicate a family history of colon cancer. Davis testified that he couldn’t recall whether he or someone else filled the form out. He also moved to preclude any opinion from the medical review panel doctors stating that Morse complied with the standard of care. The jury was instructed on contributory negligence.

The COA found that Morse didn’t show that the trial court abused its discretion when it precluded testimony from his expert witnesses saying that they believed Davis had not advised Morse that his mother had a history of colon cancer despite Davis’ testimony to the contrary. The purpose of that testimony would have been to impeach Davis’ credibility on a critical issue of fact, namely, whether he had told Morse about his mother’s colon cancer, wrote Judge Edward Najam. A determination of Davis’ credibility was within the sole province of the jury, and the proffered testimony was prohibited under Evidence Rule 704(b). Likewise, Dr. Morse has not shown any abuse of discretion in the exclusion of the questionnaire or the testimony of the doctor and nurse, the judges concluded.

 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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