Tennessee Court Denies Claim for Medical Battery

When an individual has to have serious surgery, he or she will generally be asked to consent to such surgery and will be informed of all of the related risks that may accompany the surgery. A surgeon will typically inform the patient of the possible scenarios that may occur during the surgery and the likelihood or risk of side effects or bad outcomes. This way, when the surgery occurs, a patient cannot later accuse the surgeon of undertaking actions of which he had not previously informed the patient. When a surgeon does not adequately inform a patient of what is likely to occur during surgery, or the risks involved, and undertakes procedures of which the patient was not previously aware, a patient may later claim medical battery or an injury to the body to which the patient did not consent. In a recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, a patient, and later her son, alleged medical battery as a result of a procedure that she claimed she was not made aware could occur.

B.B. began experiencing chest pain in 2006, when she was 75 years old. She went to her physician, who determined that she had multiple blockages in her arteries and sent her to a cardiologist. B.B. met with a cardiologist, who explained to her that the best remedy for her condition was cardiac artery bypass grafting. After the meeting, B.B. signed two consent forms. The first consented to coronary bypass artery surgery. The second form gave her surgeon authorization to include her in a research study about heart surgery, including a review of surgery “followed by completion angiography.”

B.B. underwent surgery in 2006. After her bypass grafting was completed, the surgeons realized that she was likely to continue to suffer from limited blood flow to her heart. In order to deal with this problem, they performed an additional angioplasty on B.B. B.B. did not recover well from the surgery and remained hospitalized for quite some time. Even after her discharge, she continued to suffer from complications as a result of the surgery. B.B eventually filed a health care liability action against the hospital. While it was pending, she passed away, and her son became the plaintiff. He argued that B.B. was subjected to medical battery because she was not aware that an additional angioplasty could be performed on her, and she had not given informed consent. At trial, both parties presented evidence, and the jury found for the hospital. B.B. appealed.

On appeal, B.B.’s son argued that he should have been entitled to a directed verdict on his claim of medical battery. Medical battery requires a plaintiff to show that he or she was not aware a doctor was going to perform a certain procedure and did not authorize the performance of the procedure. The hospital argued that B.B. had previously admitted in her complaint that she realized an angioplasty might be required because part of her consent to the research study included an awareness that after her bypass graft, she might receive an angioplasty if needed. B.B’s son testified, however, that during all of their discussions with doctors, the prospect of an angioplasty was never raised.

The court of appeals noted that the research consent form signed by B.B. clearly stated that she was a patient who might possibly receive both a bypass graft and an angioplasty. Furthermore, at trial, three doctors stated that B.B. would have been informed about the possibility of an angioplasty in the meetings leading up to her surgery. Between the written consent form that included language concerning the angioplasty and the testimony of the doctors, the court of appeals held that the evidence supported the jury’s determination that B.B. was on notice of the possibility of the angioplasty, and there was not sufficient evidence to overturn the jury verdict.

Medical professionals are careful to protect against the possibility of medical battery claims and will go to great lengths to ensure that patients are aware of the procedures to which they may be subjected and the risks involved. This means that bringing a medical battery case takes careful investigation and preparation. For more information on medical malpractice claims, including medical battery, contact knowledgeable Tennessee personal injury attorney Eric Beasley at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court Rejects Health Care Liability Action With Improper Notice, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, February 10, 2017

Waiver of Medical Malpractice Claims Against Tennessee State Employees, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, July 21, 2016

Sixth Circuit Remands Tennessee Medical Malpractice Claim for Widow of Veteran, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, March 3, 2016