Life Cycle Of A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit - An Overview (Part III)


Until you have been involved in a medical negligence suit, you probably will not appreciate how time consuming, expensive, and difficult they usually are. This is intended only as the most general overview of what these suits entail and is based generally on the laws and procedures in Pennsylvania, where the authors practice law.

In Part I, we discussed pre-suit matters and pleadings. In Part II, we discussed discovery and trial. In this, the final Part, we will discuss post-trial matters.

Post trial proceedings

After trial, the parties are allowed to file various motions challenging the result on legal grounds, in other words, that there has been some legal error during trial. These are called post-trial motions, and if they are not filed, then a party is generally prevented from filing an appeal. It is most unusual for a motion challenging the factual findings of the judge or jury to be granted unless there is simply no evidence to support the factual basis of the verdict.

There may also be a motion necessary to add interest to the verdict if plaintiff has prevailed. This interest, sometimes called delay damages, is calculated in Pennsylvania based upon Rule of Civil Procedure 238.

Only after final decision of all such motions may a party displeased with the result file an appeal to the next level of court. Those appeals do not retry the facts of the case, but are based upon legal issues some of those issues may contest the admissibility of certain evidence, but almost never successfully challenge a jury’s finding if based upon admissible evidence. It is not the role of the court, either appellate or trial court, to substitute its evaluation of the evidence for that of the jury so long as there is some admissible evidence upon which the jury relied. As a result, challenges that only question the evidence, rather than legal issues relating to the evidence, are generally unsuccessful.

And finally, usually years after the litigation process began, itself usually one to two years after the injury was suffered, the case is over. Of course, with appeals, cases can take a very long time. In Philadelphia County, it can take two years after a case is filed for a medical malpractice case to go to trial. If there is an appeal, that can take one or more years. If the appeal is successful, there may be a new trial, etc.

Keep in mind this is a very general overview. Each jurisdiction has its own body of court rules dictating procedures, and its own body of statutes and court decisions controlling the substance of medical malpractice law. This article is based on Pennsylvania procedures (generally), in particular, Philadelphia County Because of this, what is permissible procedure in one state may not be in another. What is good law some places may not apply elsewhere. Some states put a cap on pain and suffering damages and others do not. Some states recognize certain liability theories that others do not. Because of this, it is most important that parties be represented only by attorneys with experience in this field of law in the locale in which it is to be tried.

About the author: Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys Judy Greenwood & Stephen Ulan have represented victims of medical negligence and catastrophic injuries for 25 years. Their office is located at 1800 JFK Blvd., Suite 1500A, Phila., PA 19103,, email [email protected].

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