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PA Superior Court: Wrongful death case not too old to go to trial

The legal process in medical malpractice cases is often long-fought and circuitous. An especially lengthy case will continue after a judge in Montgomery County dismissed a complaint filed by a woman whose mother died in March 2000. The complaint alleges that the negligence of two doctors led to the death of the plaintiff’s mother, who died three days after being placed in the hospital’s care.

A Superior Court reversed the lower court’s order, saying that the trial judge improperly dismissed the case because it was old.

The pre-trial discovery phase reportedly lasted for years, but the lawsuit was eventually set for trial in 2012. However, the case was delayed after the wife of the plaintiff’s attorney fell ill. Then, not long before the trial was scheduled to commence in April 2013, another continuance motion was filed because the plaintiff’s health had declined, and she was unable to appear in court.

After that, the case was dismissed by the trial judge on the basis of the plaintiff’s inability to continue action. However, the appeals court found that there was nothing in the lower court’s record to indicate that the judge had entered a non pros judgment, which is a judgment that favors a defendant when the plaintiff doesn’t move forward with a claim.

The appeals court also found that the trial judge failed to adequately explain what grounds he had for dismissing the case.

Now the wrongful death lawsuit has been remanded to Montgomery County, and the plaintiff and the defendants will have their day in court.

In most cases, the process of building and litigating a medical malpractice lawsuit doesn’t take 14 years, but it is important for a plaintiff’s attorney to be persistent and diligent. To learn more about wrongful death claims, please visit our medical malpractice website.

Source: The Pennsylvania Record, “Pa. Superior Court reverses trial judge’s dismissal of hospital wrongful death case,” Jon Campisi, Feb. 3, 2014