Medical Malpractice Case Law Update

  • Jun 16, 2020

Legal Update by Attorney Clarissa Bierstedt

On March 12, 2020, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling in the medical malpractice case of Sharon Susie and Larry Susie v. Family Health Care of Siouxland, P.L.C. et al. In this case, the plaintiff, Sharon Susie, lost an arm and toes due to necrotizing fasciitis. She was treated at Family Health Care of Siouxland. The plaintiffs filed a negligence case against the defendants claiming her condition was not properly diagnosed and treatment was not timely commenced, requiring amputation of her right arm. The plaintiffs also alleged defendants’ actions resulted in the lost chance to save Sharon’s arm and toes from amputation.

In its ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court found the plaintiffs had failed to present sufficient evidence of causation, and thus upheld the district court’s ruling granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

A medical negligence case requires the plaintiff to establish the applicable standard of care, a violation of that standard, and a causal relationship between the violation and the injury. In this case, the central issue was whether it was more likely than not that the plaintiff’s arm would have been saved by administration of antibiotics one day earlier. Expert testimony was required in order to prove the plaintiff’s case. However, the plaintiffs’ expert’s testimony did not rise above the level of speculation. The expert testified that he did not know that the outcome would have been any different if the defendants had administered antibiotics earlier, “but the faster you get to care when you’re sick, the better off you are.”The expert further stated, “And it’s speculative, but clearly time is of the essence when you’re getting progressively more ill.” The Court held this did not amount to sufficient evidence to prove causation of plaintiffs’ claim that her arm would have been saved by the administration of antibiotics one day earlier.

This ruling underlines the fact that strong expert testimony, beyond mere speculation, is required in order to prove a medical malpractice case in Iowa.

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