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Texas Personal Injury News

Monday, July 30, 2018

Supreme Court Confirms Appellate Court Medical Malpractice Decision

Recently, the Supreme Court of Texas upheld a decision by the Court of Appeals for the 14th District of Texas regarding a medical malpractice case over the death of a woman, confirming that the evidence of causation was legally sufficient.

The Treatment of Shannon McCoy

Shannon McCoy suffered brain damage and quadriplegia after experiencing pre- and post-delivery complications in September 2004. She was admitted to the Hospital of Texas to give birth to her first child. McCoy’s baby had died in utero from placenta abruption. She ended up developing complications, which ultimately resulted in brain damage, and required around the clock care for the remainder of her life. She passed in 2015. Her widower, Andre McCoy, filed a negligence lawsuit in 2006 against her prenatal physician, Dr. Debra Gunn, as well as her practice, Obstetrical and Gynecological Associates PA and Obstetrical and Gynecological Associates PLLC, claiming that Gunn’s failure to make proper adjustments to the administration of blood and blood products was the cause of her permanent brain damage. Other previous defendants, including Woman’s Hospital and Dr. Mark Jacobs, reached a settlement of $1.2 million. They originally included cardiologist, Dr. James Collins, as he was the one who had treated her with Digoxin after discovering that she had an elevated heart rate. The remaining defendants alleged that McCoy, his family members, the treating nurses, and Cardiologist, contributed to the patient’s brain damage because of negligence.  

The Trial Court Decision

In an 11-1 verdict, the trial court granted McCoy’s no-evidence motion for summary judgment. The jury ruled in favor of McCoy, agreeing with the fact of Gunn’s negligence, and he was awarded $10.6 million in damages for past and future medical expenses. The Court found that OGA and Gunn were both jointly and severally liable.

The Appellate Court Decision

Gunn and OGA appealed the decision, and in December 2015, the appellate court finding that there was not in fact enough evidence to prove the award for damages for future medical expenses, and lowered it from $7.242 million to $7.082 million. Again, Gunn and OGA appealed the decision with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Decision

In May 2017, the OGA filed a petition for review with the Texas Supreme Court. The Supreme Court only affirmed the Appellate Court’s ruling that there was not in fact enough evidence to prove causation. Gunn had claimed that the testimony of McCoy’s liability expert, who stated that the amount of blood loss caused by McCoy’s brain injury was speculative and not supported by evidence. She also claimed that Shannon’s passing caused a windfall for her husband, but the Supreme Court denied this claim.

All in all, the Court held:

  1. There was legally sufficient evidence of causation;

  2. The trial court erred in excluding deposition testimony of the Defendant's’ expert witness in regards to the future medical expenses of Shannon McCoy was not harmful;

  3. The use of affidavits demonstrating proof of past medical expenses was proper;

  4. The trial court was not legally obligated to instruct the jury on avoidable accident;

  5. McCoy’s death did not create a windfall for the Plaintiff, Shannon’s husband.

The Dissent argued that the trial court’s decision to exclude expert testimony concerning future medical expenses was harmful.


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