Earlier this month, a state supreme court issued an interesting opinion in a medical malpractice case highlighting the importance of complying with the rules of pre-trial discovery. The case presented the court with the opportunity to determine whether the testimony of a witness should be allowed when the plaintiff plans on calling the witness but fails to identify the witness during pre-trial discovery. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trial court was proper in excluding the testimony and affirmed the defense verdict that was delivered by the jury.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was suffering from neck and back pain and began seeking treatment from the defendant doctor in 2004. In 2009, the doctor diagnosed the plaintiff with degenerative disc disease and recommended that the plaintiff undergo surgery.
The surgery was performed by the defendant, and afterwards the plaintiff suffered from several complications, requiring a subsequent surgery. After the subsequent surgery, the plaintiff was paralyzed from the waist down. He then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant doctor for the doctor’s failure to properly treat him during the second surgery.
During the pre-trial discovery phase, the defendant requested the names of the witnesses whose testimony the plaintiff would be introducing. The plaintiff directed the defendant to several affidavits that were attached to the complaint, as well as to his lengthy medical records. While the plaintiff’s witness’ name did appear twice in his medical records, there was no mention of the witness having ever treated the plaintiff, and there was no indication the witness would be called to testify.
At trial, when the plaintiff attempted to call the witness, the defendant objected on the basis that the witness had not been disclosed during discovery, and allowing the witness to testify would amount to “trial by surprise.” The trial judge agreed and prevented the plaintiff from calling the witness. The jury later returned a defense verdict.
The Appellate Process
On direct appeal to the intermediate appellate court, the case was reversed in favor of the plaintiff. That court determined that the trial court should have given the defendant ample time to interview the witness and prepare for her testimony, rather than prevent the testimony altogether. The defendant appealed.
On appeal to the state supreme court, the court of appeals’ decision was reversed. The court explained that the trial judge properly determined that the plaintiff intentionally withheld the name of the witness in an attempt to mislead the defense. That being the case, the court explained that the trial court was appropriate to sanction the plaintiff by preventing his witness’ testimony. As a result, the jury’s verdict in favor of the defense was reinstated.
Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured after being provided what you believe to be negligent or inadequate medical treatment, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia medical malpractice lawsuit. Developing an effective litigation strategy is crucial to the success of any personal injury, wrongful death, or medical malpractice case. Attorney Charles B. Roberts and his team of skilled trial attorneys understand the nuances of personal injury law, and we know how to effectively bring a case in courts across Virginia. To learn more about how you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation today.
See More Blog Posts:
Court Determines a Plaintiff’s Alleged Negligence Is Not Relevant in Crashworthiness Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 2, 2017.
Tire Manufacturer Withholds Evidence, Although Court-Imposed Fine Reversed, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 10, 2017.