Arkansas Malpractice Lawsuits

Malpractice tort reform in Arkansas enacted in 2003 seems to be accomplishing the goal of fewer medical malpractice lawsuits.

2001: 383 Malpractice Lawsuits
2002: 383 Malpractice Lawsuits
2003: 385 Malpractice Lawsuits
2004: 305 Malpractice Lawsuits
2005: 282 Malpractice Lawsuits
2006: 255 Malpractice Lawsuits
2007: 285 Malpractice Lawsuits

The problem is that Arkansas’ medical malpractice reform is not eliminating weaker cases but eliminating cases where the economic damages are not high enough to entice Arkansas medical malpractice attorneys to file suit.

Here are some recent malpractice verdicts for the Natural State:Arkansas medical malpracice

  • 2017: $46,500,000 Verdict: The parents alleged that the family doctor negligently managed their baby’s jaundice, monitored bilirubin levels, and failed to provide phototherapy. They claimed that their child sustained hyperbilirubinemia, which caused brain damage and kernicterus. The child did not suffer cognitive deficits but could neither talk nor walk. Her counsel claimed that phototherapy could have treated the baby’s excessive bilirubin. The Union County jury found the family doctor 85% negligent and the hospital 15% negligent. They awarded the parents $46,500,000.
  • 2012: $950,000 Verdict.  The plaintiff, represented by a special administrator of the estate, was anesthetized for an esophagogastroduodenoscopy. The plaintiff’s airway was obstructed, and she suffered a pulmonary and cardiac arrest. This was not discovered until the procedure was completed and resulted in the plaintiff suffering a permanent anoxic brain injury. She later died from complications from her condition.  A complaint was filed by the special administrator of the estate who alleged medical negligence by the defendants for failing to properly monitor the plaintiff during the procedure to prevent obstruction of her trachea and failing to restore respiration and circulation before seven minutes had passed after discovery. He also alleged the defendants were negligent in failing to use the services of an anesthesiologist and having a crash cart staffed and readily available.  The parties agreed to settle and awarded the plaintiff $950,000.
  • 2009: $396,906.11 Verdict. Plaintiff visited her gynecologist’s office to receive an intrauterine device (IUD). Her gynecologist’s nurse performed the IUD insertion. The plaintiff alleged the nurse negligently performed the insertion and placed the IUD in the plaintiff’s peritoneal cavity. The plaintiff also alleged the IUD had to be removed surgically two months after placement and she consequently sustained severe and permanent injury.  The plaintiff filed a medical negligence claim against both her gynecologist and the nurse.  Victim’s husband also brought a claim loss of consortium (an avenue we rarely take because we think it detracts from the plaintiff’s real claim).  The jury did not find the gynecologist was negligent but found the nurse negligent for the plaintiffs’ injuries.  Juries generally have an easier time blaming the nurse than the physician.  They awarded the plaintiff in the amount of $379,906.11 and her husband in the amount of $10,000.
  • 2009: Arkansas: $5,323,443.98 Verdict. Plaintiff underwent a hip replacement surgery that resulted in sciatic nerve damage, causing a drop left foot. The plaintiff sued the surgeon and surgery center for medical malpractice. The plaintiff’s counsel argued the surgeon left the retractor (a device that separates the muscle and tissue during surgery) in for too long and the extended pressure caused nerve damage. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgery experts agreed with the counsel and also supported the fact that the surgery was conducted in double the amount of necessary time. The plaintiff’s experts testified the surgeon breached the standard of care.   The plaintiff underwent a revision of the botched hip replacement by a surgeon who defined the location and appearance of the site of injury. The new surgeon testified that her condition was permanent.   The jury found in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $5,323,443.98.
  • 2009: Arkansas: $2,500,000 Verdict. The plaintiff, being represented by her parents, spent her first two days of life at the hospital under the care of her doctors, the defendants, and then sent home with her parents. Her parents alleged that while under the care of the doctors, their daughter exhibited several symptoms of sepsis and sent her home without informing her parents of the risks of early departure.   The plaintiff became very ill after coming home with non-stop crying and severe diarrhea. Two weeks after multiple hospital and clinic visits, she became ill with spinal meningitis that resulted in brain damage.   Plaintiff’s parents sued her original doctors for failing to act responsively with her sepsis symptoms and failure to administer a course of antibiotics after her birth.   While none of the doctors admitted liability, the case settled for $2,500,000.

Expert Testimony Requirement

In medical malpractice cases, plaintiffs are generally required to present expert testimony to establish the standard of care, breach, and causation. The expert’s opinion must be stated within a reasonable degree of medical certainty. Failure to present such testimony can result in summary judgment against the plaintiff.

Proximate Causation

In negligence claims, including medical malpractice, proximate causation is essential. It must be demonstrated that the alleged negligence directly caused the injury, and without it, the injury would not have occurred.

Appeals in Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the appellate court will review whether the lower court correctly applied the law regarding summary judgment and whether it abused its discretion in handling discovery and procedural issues related to the case.




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