Citation. 808 F.2d 1075 (5th Cir. 1987)
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Government attempts to raise an affirmative defense post-trial after the judgements are entered in two cases where it was sued for medical malpractice.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Under FRCP 8(c) if affirmative defenses are not pleaded in a timely manner, they are waived.
Plaintiff Ingraham receives spinal damage from an Air Force surgeon, brings suit and is awarded damages in the amount of $1,264,000. Plaintiff Jocelyn Bonds was the patient of a botched cesarean section that caused her daughter, Plaintiff Stephanie, to have brain damage. Plaintiffs Jocelyn and Stephanie are also awarded damages in the amount of $750,000 and $3,490,555.60 respectively. The causes of action of both Plaintiffs arose after the enactment of the Medical Liability and Insurance Improvement Act of Texas (Malpractice Act) which capped medical malpractice damages at $500,000. The Government however did not try to raise this affirmative defense until after the damages were awarded in both cases.
Does an affirmative defense have to be pleaded before judgement is entered?
Yes, if an affirmative defense is not pleaded in a timely manner it is waived and the defendant may not challenge liability based on that defense. Holding of the lower court if affirmed.
- FRCP 8(c) requires that any avoidance or affirmative defense must be timely and affirmatively pleaded or else it is waived.
- FRCP 8(c) lists 19 different affirmative defenses and has a residual clause that includes defenses not included on the list of 19.
- To determine whether a defense is covered under the residual clause the defendant must determine: (1) whether the matter constitutes a necessary element in the plaintiff’s cause of action, (2) what party has better access to the relevant evidence needed, and (3) the policy considerations.
- Requiring a party to plead affirmative defenses ensures there are no unfair surprises that disadvantages the other party.
- The limitation on damages set by the Malpractice Act was an affirmative defense that should have been pleaded in a timely fashion according to FRCP 8(c). It is an attempt at avoidance and is therefore included in the residual clause of affirmative defenses listed in FRCP 8(c).
- This decision is different from Lucas v. United States because in that case the defendant pleaded the affirmative defense at trial, whereas here, the Government is attempting to raise it post-trial, which is too late.