Iowa Appellate Court Agrees Some Claims Against Hospital May Be For Ordinary Negligence

The Court of Appeals of Iowa (“Iowa Appellate Court”) stated in ts opinion filed on November 3, 2021 in a lawsuit against a hospital for injuries suffered from a patient’s fall, “Jacqueline Struck appeals the district court’s order granting the defendants’ motions to dismiss her personal injury action for failure to file expert witness certificate of merit affidavits pursuant to Iowa Code section 147.140 (2020). Struck challenges the court’s determination that expert testimony was necessary to establish a prima facie case for “all [her] claims.” Upon our review, we agree the petition is broad enough to encompass ordinary negligence claims against Mercy Medical Center (Mercy) not requiring a certificate of merit affidavit, and such claims should not have been dismissed. Thus, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.”

The Underlying Facts

In January 2018, Struck was a patient at Mercy when she “fell” and sustained injuries, claiming that she was improperly medicated and supervised.

Iowa Code Section 147.140

Iowa Code section 147.140 requires a plaintiff who alleges “personal injury or wrongful death against a health care provider based upon the alleged negligence in the practice of that profession or occupation or in patient care, which includes a cause of action for which expert testimony is necessary to establish a prima facie case,” to file within sixty days of the defendant’s answer “a certificate of merit affidavit signed by an expert witness with respect to the issue of standard of care and an alleged breach of the standard of care.” Iowa Code § 147.140(1)(a). Failure to substantially comply with this requirement “shall” lead to “dismissal with prejudice of each cause of action as to which expert witness testimony is necessary to establish a prima facie case.” Id. § 147.140(6).

The district court determined that a certificate of merit affidavit was required with regard to both “categories” of claims raised in Struck’s petition: those with regard to all defendants (professional negligence) and those with regard to only Mercy (negligent hiring and retention).

On appeal, Struck challenged the district court’s finding that all her “possible negligence claims” “relied upon professional negligence.” In other words, Struck contended the court’s ruling “incorrectly presupposes” that all her claims required expert testimony to establish a prima facie case.

Iowa Appellate Court Opinion

The Iowa Appellate Court stated: “We acknowledge a slip and fall in a hospital may be subject to a claim of either professional negligence or ordinary negligence. One court observed, “[t]he mere fact that a patient falls in a hospital will not normally determine whether expert testimony is called for in a given case. Some fall cases require expert testimony; others do not” … we decline to attempt to “narrow the issues” or “pierce” the allegations in the petition to prejudge whether Struck has any remaining negligence claim not requiring expert testimony to establish a prima facie case. To effectuate justice and give the pleader the advantage of all reasonable intendments, we conclude the order dismissing all claims against Mercy was in error and Struck’s claim or claims of negligence of premises liability and negligence of non-professional staff against Mercy remain viable.”

“If the district court determines after remand, and after the facts supporting the surviving claims are fleshed out, that a claim requires expert testimony, then the court should dismiss it as Struck did not challenge on appeal the district court’s conclusion that she failed to timely file a certificate of merit. Struck concedes, and we affirm, the dismissal of all claims against all the remaining defendants. We also affirm the dismissal of any claims against Mercy relating to the negligent hiring, retention, or supervision of professional staff as such claims would require expert testimony. Accordingly, we affirm in part but reverse the dismissal of any claim or claims of ordinary negligence against Mercy.”

Source Struck v. Mercy Health Services, No. 20-1228.

If you or a loved one may have been harmed as a result of medical negligence in Iowa or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an Iowa medical malpractice lawyer or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 6th, 2021 at 5:28 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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