Court confirms that federal enactments regarding “never events” and “hospital acquired conditions” don’t alter elements that plaintiffs must prove in medical negligence claims
Ohio’s well-established medical negligence law requires a claimant in a medical negligence action to prove three elements: (1) there was a breach of the applicable standard of care in the medical community; (2) the negligence was the proximate cause of the resulting injury; and (3) damages resulted. Recently, a plaintiff sought to use the occurrence of a “never event” as substitute for one or more of these necessary elements. However, the Second Appellate Court of Appeals of Montgomery County upheld the trial court’s decision to grant partial summary judgment against the plaintiff.
In Stuck v. Miami Valley Hosp., Stuck underwent surgery at Miami Valley Hospital (MVH) for the recurrence of renal cell carcinoma. While at MVH, Stuck developed at least one pressure ulcer. Eight days after being discharged, Stuck presented to the emergency room with sepsis and Stage IV decubitus ulcers, among other conditions. He requested in his complaint a declaratory finding that “never events” and/or “hospital acquired conditions” are equivalent to negligence per se and eliminate the need to prove a breach in the standard of care. Alternatively, he argued that a “never event” warrants application of res ipsa loqitor and eliminates his need to prove causation. “Never events” and “hospital acquired conditions” are defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce the payment of benefits to hospitals. Stuck argued that because his ulcers are on the federal listing as a “hospital acquired condition,” the federal government established a standard of care breached by MVH.
After a statutory analysis, the appellate court determined that legislation on “never events” and “hospital acquired conditions” was enacted to incentivize certain hospital behaviors, not to create a new standard of care applicable to private causes of action alleging medical negligence. Additionally, the court looked to other states and found that none have concluded that the occurrence of a “never event” or “hospital acquired condition” alone has satisfied the plaintiff’s obligation to prove the elements of medical negligence.
Health care defendants should be aware that, in this case, the court did not rule on the issue of admissibility of evidence about “never events” that may have occurred during hospitalization. However, the court did not allow the claimant’s attempt to circumvent the requirement of proving all elements of a medical negligence claim.Download PDF