John M. Kirby
Katy v Capriola -- Contributory Negligence
In Katy v Kapriola, from April 16, 2013, the Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court erred in failing to submit the patient's contributory negligence to a jury, thereby reversing a verdict of $667,000.
The plaintiff (deceased) delivered twins at the hospital. She returned to the hospital thereafter, and the doctors thought she had pneumonia, and she was discharged with medication and instructions to return if her symptoms did not resolve. The doctors later reviewed a film and determined that in fact she might have been suffering from congestive heart failure. The health care provider advised the plaintiff to return to the hospital. The plaintiff did not immediately return. Soon after she returned to the hospital, her condition worsened, and she had an embolus in her kidney and later a stroke, and she died thereafter. The plaintiff alleged (in the wrongful death lawsuit) that the doctors negligently delayed diagnosing her CHF. The trial court refused to submit the issue of contributory negligence to the jury.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed this decision, and held that the jury could have concluded that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent. The court wrote, "However, when Mrs. Katy's condition continued to deteriorate, she failed to immediately seek medical attention. Instead, despite the explicit instructions from the ER physicians, Mrs. Katy delayed reporting her symptoms until 1 March 2008 when she returned to the ER. Mrs. Katy's actions provide more than a scintilla of evidence that she, . . . failed to take 'an active responsibility for h[er] own care and well being.'"