Brief Fact Summary. Herskovit’s (Plaintiff) malpractice suit was dismissed by a trial court because she failed to show that her decedent would probably have survived except for the alleged malpractice.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. In a wrongful death/malpractice suit, a Plaintiff is not required to prove that the decedent would more likely than not have survived except for the alleged malpractice.
The law does not in the existing circumstances require the plaintiff to show to a certainty that the patient would have lived had she been hospitalized and operated on promptly.View Full Point of Law
Issue. In a wrongful death/malpractice suit, is a Plaintiff required to prove that the decedent would more likely than not have survived except for the alleged malpractice?
Held. (Dore, J.)Â No.Â In a wrongful death/malpractice suit, a Plaintiff is not required to prove that the decedent would more likely than not have survived except for the alleged malpractice.Â To hold otherwise would have the practical effect of protecting medical providers from liability whenever a decedent had less than 50 percent chance of living, no matter how extreme the negligence was.Â This is not a proper result.Â Analytically, the issue boils down to the jury question of proximate cause.Â Using this case as an example, the question is whether a decrease from 39 percent to 25 percent in chances of survival could be considered a big factor in bringing about injury.Â As noted before, this is a jury question, and cannot be resolved at the summary judgment level.Â Therefore, the trial court erred by granting summary judgment.Â Reversed.
Dissent. (Brachtenbach, J.)Â The basic question is whether the patient died as a result of the doctor’s malpractice.Â This cannot be so when the patient would probably have died anyway.
Concurrence. (Pearson, J.)Â All that is required to be shown is that the alleged malpractice caused a significant reduction in chance of survival.
Discussion. The opinion was only concerned with liability.Â However, in the context of this case, damages recoverable would be an issue.Â One possible way to measure damages would be to make them commensurate with the lessening of decedent’s chance of survival as a result of the malpractice.Â In this case, Plaintiff would receive 14 percent of full recovery under the measure.