Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lord v. Lovett case brief

Lord v. Lovett case summary
770 A.2d 1103 (N.H. 2001)
Tort Law

-Plaintiff was treated by defendant physicians after suffering severe injuries in an automobile accident.
-She eventually sued them on grounds that their negligence deprived her of a chance of a fuller recovery.
-Prior medical malpractice case law in New Hampshire had never squarely faced the issue of whether a plaintiff could recover for lost opportunity.

Medical malpractice plaintiff appealed dismissal, for failure to state a claim, by Belknap Superior Court (New Hampshire), of her action against defendant doctors based on a theory that defendants' negligence deprived her of a chance for a substantially better recovery from injuries incurred in an automobile accident.

-The court adopted the majority rule, treating lost opportunity as a separate injury, for which plaintiff could recover if she proved defendants' negligence caused that injury to her, and her resulting damages, that is, the extent to which future damages were increased, by the preponderance of the evidence. 

-This type of injury fit perfectly well within the plain language of the definition of a medical injury in the statute, so there was no need to even examine the legislative history, although it, too, supported the adoption of this rule.

-The loss of a chance of achieving a favorable outcome or of avoiding an adverse consequence should be compensable and should be valued appropriately, rather than treated as an all-or-nothing proposition. Pre-existing conditions must be taken into account in valuing the interest destroyed. -When those pre-existing conditions have not absolutely pre-ordained an adverse outcome, however, the chance of avoiding it should be appropriately compensated even if that chance is not better than even.
-Accordingly, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire holds that a plaintiff may recover for a loss of opportunity injury in medical malpractice cases when the defendant's alleged negligence aggravates the plaintiff's pre-existing injury such that it deprives the plaintiff of a substantially better outcome.

The court recognized loss of opportunity for a better outcome as a separate injury recoverable in tort, reversed the dismissal, and remanded for further proceedings.

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