In its non-precedential decision filed on April 9, 2021, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania (“Pennsylvania Appellate Court”) held: “the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant’s weight of the evidence claim. Appellant has waived her challenge to Dr. Boberg’s qualification as an expert on informed consent by failing to lodge a timely objection. The trial court’s decision to disallow Dr. Juinta from offering testimony on causation constituted harmless error because the jury found Dr. Rynkiewicz not negligent.”
The Underlying Facts
On January 22, 2010, the plaintiff visited Dr. Rosemarie Rynkiewicz (“Rynkiewicz”) to seek treatment for a painful plantar fascia and a painful lesion on the bottom of her fifth metatarsal head. As her pain continued and she experienced difficulty standing, she visited Dr. Rynkiewicz again on May 10, 2010. Dr. Rynkiewicz eventually recommended podiatric surgery.
On July 1, 2010, prior to surgery, Dr. Rynkiewicz scheduled a 45 minutes to an hour appointment with the plaintiff for purposes educating her about the proposed surgical procedure and the risks involved. Dr. Rynkiewicz performed the surgery on July 9, 2010. Approximately eleven months later, on June 13, 2011, Dr. Rynkiewicz noted that the plaintiff’s fifth toe on the right foot was overlapping her fourth toe.
On July 17, 2012, the plaintiff filed her Pennsylvania medical malpractice complaint against Dr. Rynkiewicz, alleging causes of action for negligence, battery, lack of informed consent, fraud or negligent misrepresentation, and punitive damages. On June 29, 2016, the trial court granted in part Dr. Rynkiewicz ‘s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages. The case proceeded to a multi-day jury trial, at which both parties presented testimony. At the conclusion of trial, the jury returned a defense verdict. The plaintiff appealed.
Pennsylvania Appellate Court Decision
The Pennsylvania Appellate Court stated, “Appellant argues that the weight of the evidence in this case demonstrates that Dr. Rynkiewicz did not obtain informed consent from Appellant and impermissibly delegated the duty to do the same to a hospital employee. We disagree. Based on our review of the record, we cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Appellant’s weight of the evidence claim … Dr. Rynkiewicz explained to Appellant the proposed medical procedure and risks involved. The fact that a hospital employee witnessed Appellant’s signature on one of the consent forms is of no moment, as Dr. Rynkiewicz reviewed and discussed the necessary consent forms with her prior to surgery.”
With regard to the plaintiff’s claim “that the trial court abused its discretion in disallowing her treating physician, Dr. Thomas Jiunta, from testifying on causation,” the Pennsylvania Appellate Court stated, “Any error by the trial court was harmless. The jury already had heard from Appellant’s expert on the issue of causation and any testimony from Dr. Juinta, who was not identified or disclosed as an expert, would have been merely cumulative. Critically, the jury never reached the issue of causation and damages when it found in favor of Dr. Rynkiewicz on Appellant’s negligence claim.”
Source Heyer v. Rynkiewicz, J-A22034-20.
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