Summary Judgment for Surgeon in NJ Medical Malpractice Case

February 23, 2023

Jacqueline E. Schneiders and M. Dinora Smith obtained summary judgment for a surgeon in a medical malpractice action filed in the NJ Superior Court in Camden County, New Jersey.

Plaintiff alleged that all Defendants were negligent in their failure to timely diagnose and treat the decedent’s bowel injury or disease, causing aspiration of emesis and a cardiac arrest, which then began an uncontrollable cascade of pathologies resulting in her death. She sued the hospital and all physicians involved in the decedent’s care, including several surgeons and gastroenterologists.

During discovery, Plaintiff produced expert reports from two surgeons. Neither expert identified any specific act or omission of the surgeon at issue that was a breach of the standard of care and cause of decedent’s death. One expert broadly concluded that all the surgeons deviated from the standard of care, but was only critical of the actions taken after the surgeon at issue was no longer involved in the care. The other expert gave a similar opinion, but specifically noted that initial conservative management was appropriate.

In moving for summary judgment, Schneiders and Smith argued that Plaintiff failed to present evidence of any specific deviation from the standard of care by the surgeon at issue, that the opinions were critical of the care after his involvement, and the broad, conclusory opinions were impermissible net opinions. While the motion was pending, Plaintiff’s second expert gave a new opinion purportedly based on imaging studies from 2018 that Plaintiff provided to him the day before the deposition. At oral argument, Plaintiff argued that this new opinion was sufficient to establish liability against all the surgeons involved in decedent’s care. However, this new opinion was only an expansion and ultimately did not change the original conclusion that initial conservative care was appropriate. The Court agreed, granted the motion for summary judgment, and dismissed all claims and cross-claims against the surgeon.