August 7, 2022
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Court Holds Claim Against Hospital For Malpractice And Not Negligence: In its opinion dated May 17, 2022, the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that the plaintiff’s claims were for medical negligence and not ordinary negligence: “the gravamen of the complaint sufficiently identified this case as one for medical malpractice, error, or mistake, and not merely ordinary negligence. Lane’s claims centered on her arriving at the emergency room suffering from an asthma attack, and the hospital’s failure to provide a proper medication to her, which resulted in a severe allergic reaction. More specifically, the hospital was alleged to have deviated from the “standard of care” by administering a medication containing lactose to Lane, who had a lactose allergy known to the hospital.”

“Lane further alleged that the hospital failed to abide by the applicable standard of care in “ordering and administering medication,” failing to properly communicate with the hospital pharmacy, and failing to properly instruct staff to check patients’ records for allergies. As detailed above, the fabric of Lane’s claims was woven with the same common threads of medical judgment related to treatment and care that appear in other medical malpractice cases.”

The Underlying Facts

Plaintiff Emily Lane (“Lane”) was born in 2001 and later diagnosed with a severe lactose allergy. On April 19, 2015, Lane suffered a severe asthma attack and was taken by an ambulance to the defendant hospital’s emergency room. At the time of Lane’s admission, the hospital was aware of her lactose allergy. In the course of her treatment in the emergency room, Lane was administered a dose of depomedrol dexamethasone solumedrol (40 mg act-o-vial), which contained, as one of its ingredients, lactose. After she received the medication, Lane stopped breathing on her own, had to be resuscitated, and was deemed in critical condition. Lane alleged that the hospital was responsible for her severe and life-threatening adverse reaction, as well as her physical injuries.

Massachusetts General Laws c. 231, § 60B, governs actions for “malpractice, error or mistake against a provider of health care” and requires that any such action be referred to a medical malpractice tribunal. The relevant factors to determine whether the complained-of acts are properly viewed as medical malpractice include the following: (1) whether medical or professional judgment or competence was exercised, (2) whether the claim is “treatment-related,” even if not a traditional malpractice claim, and (3) whether “the same set of facts supports both” the medical malpractice and allegedly nonmedical claims.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court stated in the case it was deciding, “An examination of these factors (none of which is conclusive), against the legislative backdrop of § 60B, leads to the conclusion that the judge here improperly resolved the question whether this case was one for medical malpractice or ordinary negligence.”

Source Lane v. Winchester Hospital, No. 21-P-476.

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