Unfortunately, Texas personal injury cases can take years to resolve, in some instances, and plaintiffs may not live to see the final disposition of their case. This can implicate a number of procedural rules and requirements in order to ensure that the right type of case is being brought and the proper damages are being sought. In a recent case before the Texas Supreme Court, the court explained why an award for future medical expenses should stand, although the plaintiff had died by the time the case reached the court.
The plaintiff was 37 weeks pregnant and receiving prenatal care from an ob/gyn when she came to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. She had seen her ob/gyn that morning for a routine visit and everything appeared normal. When she went to the hospital, the doctors discovered that the fetus had died due to placental abruption, and that the woman had developed disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a blood-clotting disorder.
The doctors ordered a blood-product replacement plan to counter her DIC. They decided that vaginal delivery was necessary and hoped that the DIC would correct itself after delivery.
The plaintiff delivered the baby, but experienced significant blood loss. Her condition appeared stable and she was transferred to the intensive care unit, but doctors later discovered her blood was not clotting properly and she began to hemorrhage. The doctors performed a hysterectomy and she later experienced a seizure. She suffered brain damage, quadriplegia, and required twenty-four hour care. Acting as her guardian, her husband sued the hospital and the ob/gyn practice for medical malpractice.
The case went to trial and the jury found in the plaintiff’s favor, awarding $10,626,369 in damages. The judgment included $7,242,403 for future medical expenses. The defendants appealed, and the woman died the night before the court of appeals’ decision. The ob/gyn argued this created a windfall for the husband because almost 70% of the judgment was for future medical expenses that would never be incurred.
The Death of a Party to a Lawsuit
Under the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rule 7.1 states:
If a party to a civil case dies after the trial court renders judgment but before the case has been finally disposed of on appeal, the appeal may be perfected, and the appellate court will proceed to adjudicate the appeal as if all parties were alive. The appellate court’s judgment will have the same force and effect as if rendered when all parties were living.
The Court’s Decision
The court explained that the case had already been decided, and therefore the judgment should remain intact, as the rule required. It noted that if the trial court had awarded the husband periodic payments of future medical expenses, the payments would have terminated on the death of the recipient. The defendants could have requested that the court order that the claim be paid in whole or in part in periodic payments, but they failed to do so. As a result, the judgment would stand despite the plaintiff’s death.
Contact a San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved has been the victim of what you believe to have been medical malpractice, the medical professional or medical practice may be liable under Texas medical malpractice laws for the resulting injuries. At Carabin Shaw, we aggressively represent individuals across Texas that have suffered catastrophic personal injuries and wrongful deaths. We have over 200 years of combined experience in personal injury law, and we stand ready to help our clients find solutions to the challenges that arise after a serious accident. If you need our law firm on your side, call us toll-free at 1-800-862-1260.
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