Federal Appellate Court Again Affirms $30M Medical Malpractice Verdict For Kidney Patient

Plaintiff Kevin Clanton filed a medical malpractice lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that a nurse practitioner employed by the U.S. Public Health Service failed to educate him about his severe hypertension or to monitor its advancement, and as a result of that negligent care his hypertension developed into Stage V kidney disease. As a result, Clanton required dialysis and, at the age of 35, a kidney transplant, and is expected to endure further cycles of dialysis and another transplant in the future. Following a five-day bench trial, the district court found the United States liable, rejected the government’s comparative negligence argument as to Clanton, and awarded Clanton nearly $30 million in damages. The federal government appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (“Federal Appellate Court”), which upheld the damages calculation, but remanded for the district court to assess Clanton’s comparative negligence under Illinois’s reasonable-person standard. On remand, the district court again concluded that comparative negligence was inapplicable in this case, and the federal government again appealed.

Second Appeal

The Federal Appellate Court held in the second appeal decided on December 17, 2021: “the district court did not base its decision on Clanton’s subjective understanding. The court made findings as to what an objectively reasonable person would understand as to hypertension and found that a reasonable person would not understand the potential for damage in the absence of any symptoms, and therefore would not understand the need to take medication or see a medical provider when asymptomatic. The government does not contest those findings by the court, and therefore, we accept them as true and express no opinion at all as to those findings. Based on those findings, the court held that Clanton’s actions were not inconsistent with the due care that would be expected of a reasonable person. Whether the fact findings are supportable, and whether that conclusion as to due care is supportable, are not issues before us now. The only issue raised by the government is whether the court continued to apply the subjective test on remand, or whether the court analyzed comparative negligence under the proper reasonable-person standard which we instructed the court to apply on remand. The district court’s order reveals that it properly identified the standard and applied it, and the government has not demonstrated reversible error. Because we affirm on this ground, we need not consider the court’s alternative argument that any comparative negligence could not be considered a “substantial cause” of Clanton’s injury. The decision of the district court is AFFIRMED.”

Source Clanton v. United States of America, No. 20-2059.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 13th, 2022 at 5:24 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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