Reviving The Intervening Superseding Cause Doctrine

March 26, 2015

Issue

A patient alleged that an employee of our hospital client observed the patient’s changed symptoms but did not report those symptoms to the patient’s physician, causing a delay in surgery and permanent injury to the patient.    

Our Approach

The patient attempted to implicate all of her care providers by also testifying that she informed her physicians of these same changed symptoms at a time when, according to her experts, surgery could have been timely performed to avoid injury.  In an issue of first impression in Ohio, we argued the patient could not “cherry pick” facts from other witnesses simply to avoid summary judgment, especially when those facts contradicted her own version of events.  Using the patient’s own version of events and causation theory against her, we successfully argued that her testimony that she informed her physicians of the same symptoms within time for surgery to occur without injury was undisputed evidence of an intervening and superseding cause under Ohio law, therefore breaking the chain of causation stemming from the initial conduct of the hospital employee.  The trial court awarded summary judgment to the hospital accordingly, and the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed, adopting a large part of our legal analysis.

Results

Despite disputed issues of fact on standard of care and permanent injury, we obtained judgment as a matter of law for the hospital by invoking a causation doctrine that, traditionally, involved factual questions that usually are not decided at the summary judgment stage. 

Related Attorney

 

Hosted on the FirmWisesm Platform