California Appellate Court Affirms Medical Malpractice Defense Verdict Where Patient Died Of Pulmonary Embolism Shortly After Surgery

The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fifth Appellate District (“California Appellate Court”) held in its unpublished opinion filed on September 21, 2021: “The alleged professional negligence in this case was that of Dr. Barnes, not that of a nurse or other non-physician staff. Dr. Barnes personally handled the call from Henry and spoke directly with him. There was no third-party intermediary, such as a nurse. Therefore, evidence of internal policies, practices and/or training at Beautologie regarding postoperative follow-up by nurses or other non-physicians of patients was irrelevant in this case. A physician’s or surgeon’s standard of care is distinct from that of a nurse.”

Underlying Facts

According to plaintiffs’ complaint, on July 22, 2016, Melani Valderrama (“Melani”) presented herself to defendants’ care for the following procedures to be performed by Dr. Barnes, at Beautologie’s surgical facility in Bakersfield: (1) bilateral breast augmentation with right mastopexy and left crescent lift, and (2) abdominoplasty with liposuction. Dr. Barnes was aware that Melani was 40-years-old, mildly obese, and was taking birth control medication, all of which increased her risk for developing blood clots after surgery.

After the surgery, Melani developed a fever and cough. Henry Valderrama (“Henry”) placed a telephone call to defendants to notify them about these symptoms. Allegedly, Dr. Barnes’s response was that the symptoms were normal, and he did not request that Melani be immediately seen or examined. According to the plaintiffs, this conduct (i.e., Dr. Barnes’s failure to take action) constituted medical negligence and resulted in Melani’s death on July 27, 2016, from a pulmonary embolism.

The California Appellate Court held: “we point out that for purposes of malpractice law, a physician’s or surgeon’s standard of care is distinct from that of a nurse, and thus a nurse’s conduct is not measured by the standard of care required of a physician or surgeon … In this case, consistent with this definition of the standard of care, each side presented extensive testimony at trial from their own qualified medical expert on the question of the standard of care for Dr. Barnes as a physician, and whether Dr. Barnes violated that standard under the circumstances. Thus, plaintiffs and defendants supported their respective positions on the standard of care by offering testimony relevant to that precise issue. In contrast to the evidence presented at trial, the evidence excluded by the trial court was not relevant to the standard of care of Dr. Barnes as a physician and was properly excluded.”

Source Valderrama v. Beautologie Cosmetic Surgery, F079565.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 6th, 2021 at 5:26 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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