Mississippi Supreme Court declines to overturn loss-of-a-chance precedent in medical malpractice cases

by Bamidele Ogunberu Last updated on January 27th, 2019,

The Supreme Court of Mississippi on Thursday declined to overturn the loss-of-a-chance precedent used in medical malpractice cases.

The court’s decision upheld a trial judge’s dismissal and summary judgment ruling in a case that accused Anderson Regional Medical Center’s nurses of failure to recognize and react to a patient’s stroke symptoms. This oversight resulted in the patient’s death.

At issue was whether Mississippi should follow a reduced-likelihood standard instead of a loss-of-a-chance standard. Reduced-likelihood allows damages that are proportional to the negligence.

The loss-of-a-chance doctrine controlling this appeal requires plaintiffs to show that:

but for the negligence, [the patient] had a reasonable probability of a substantial improvement. … Stated another way, the plaintiff[s] must offer proof of “a greater than fifty (50) percent chance of a better result than was in fact obtained.”

The justices decided that the loss-of-chance standard is consistent with Mississippi’s pure comparative-negligence framework.

In a dissent, Justice James Kitchens cited that the circuit court erred when it relied on a higher standard than required by the loss-of-a-chance doctrine. The standard used was based on the chance of a “perfect result or complete recovery” rather than a “better result than was in fact obtained.” Accordingly, the dissent wanted further trial court proceedings to appropriately resolve the case.

Leave a Reply