Massachusetts Appeals Court Allows Medical Malpractice Case to Move Forward

Gena Paretchan brought a medical malpractice action against Dr. Edward Kwasnik, a surgeon who performed a laparoscopic cholecystectomy on her, and Dr. Gaurav Sharma, a surgical resident who assisted Dr. Krasnik during the procedure. Paretchan experienced complications for a month after the procedure with repeat hospital visits, tests, and ultimately a surgery to repair a bile duct disruption. A medical malpractice tribunal determined that the offer of proof was insufficient to raise a legitimate question of liability as to both defendants. After Paretchan failed to post a bond, and judgment was entered for the defendants, Paretchan appealed. On appeal, the court reversed the judgment for the defendants.

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Before considering the lower court’s decision, the appeals court reviewed the facts of the case. Paretchan had a history of symptomatic gallstones with multiple attacks. In October 2012, the defendants performed a laparoscopic cholecystectomy to remove her gallbladder. Her worsening abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting after discharge led Paretchan to seek medical attention, including multiple emergency room visits. An exploratory laparotomy was subsequently performed, and a right anterior bile duct disruption was found. Paretchan underwent surgery to repair this injury.

Paretchan’s offer of proof at the tribunal consisted of her medical records and an opinion letter by Dr. Steven Becker, a surgeon from New Jersey. In his opinion letter, Dr. Becker concluded that the standard of care was violated during the plaintiff’s gallbladder removal surgery when the defendants failed to properly visualize and identify the bile ducts and other biliary structures, causing an injury to the right anterior bile duct.

In reversing, the appeals court first explained that a plaintiff’s offer of proof as to negligence will prevail before a medical malpractice tribunal if she shows that the defendant is a provider of health care, demonstrates that the health care provider did not conform to good medical practice, and establishes the resulting damages. Since there was no dispute that the defendants were health care providers, the sole issues on Paretchan’s appeal were whether the defendants’ treatment did not conform to good medical practice, as well as causation.

In his expert opinion, Dr. Becker described the appropriate standard of care required of the defendants for the procedure. He then concluded that the type of injury the plaintiff suffered could only have occurred as a result of the defendants’ failure to apply this standard. The defendants argued to the contrary that Dr. Becker’s opinion concerning the defendants’ alleged deviation from the standard of care and the causal link to the plaintiff’s injury were conclusory, leaving these required elements to be based on speculation.

In evaluating Dr. Becker’s analysis of the operation, the appeals court could not discern whether an inference of negligence was unreasonable. The plaintiff’s offer of proof was thus sufficient to pass the tribunal stage. The appeals court vacated the judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s claims against the defendants. The matter was remanded to the superior court for Paretchan to proceed with her claims.

If you have been harmed by a health care provider’s negligence, you may need the assistance of a medical malpractice lawyer to seek compensation. At the Neumann Law Group, our Massachusetts attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation to victims all over the state. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or use our online form to set up a free consultation.

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