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Court affirms summary judgment in med-mal case.

Byline: Jessica Shumaker

A Missouri appeals court has affirmed a judge's decision to dismiss a woman's negligence claims against Saint Luke's Health System and its employees for allegedly giving her too much morphine during her cesarean-section birth in 2014.

On Oct. 16, a three-judge panel from the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District ruled that because the plaintiff, Kassidy L. Love, failed to designate an expert witness in her case, she also failed to establish that her injuries were caused by the hospital and its employees' negligence.

Love filed the suit in Aug. 2016 against Dr. J.M Waring, an anesthesiologist; Stan D. Avery, a certified nurse anesthetist; Saint Luke's Anesthesia Services P.C., Saint Luke's Health System Inc. and Saint Luke's East Hospital.

Love alleged her injuries followed the delivery of her child via C-section in August 2014 at Saint Luke's East Hospital, according to the opinion, written by Judge Lisa White Hardwick.

Waring and Avery served as Love's anesthesia team during her C-section. Avery administered morphine to Love to help relieve pain during the procedure.

According to the opinion, another doctor, William Poe, wrote an entry in Love's medical chart that noted anesthetic complications from an excessive dose of morphine.

Poe then ordered that Love receive naxolone, or Narcan, a drug intended to reverse the effects of morphine.

Love was also given 12 other medications the same day, prior to delivery, the opinion said. All have potential side effects including decreased respiratory rate, depression or anxiety, drowsiness, nausea and itching.

In Love's petition, she alleged she was given too much morphine.

She claimed Waring and Avery failed to read the label on the morphine given to her and failed to verify the dosage was correct, and that the hospital, the anesthesiology practice and health system were negligent in training and supervising their employees.

She also alleged the defendants' negligence caused her to suffer a decreased respiratory rate, feelings of being overwhelmed, depression, dark thoughts, sleepiness, nausea, vomiting and itching. She further alleged she was unable to care for her newborn for days after the birth.

In December 2016, Jackson County Circuit Judge George E. Wolf entered a case-management order setting deadlines for the lawsuit, including a deadline for designating experts. Love did not designate an expert, Hardwick wrote.

The defendants filed motions for summary judgment asserting that Love bore the burden of establishing causation through expert testimony and that she had not put forth any expert testimony to support her claim that the alleged morphine overdose caused her injuries.

Wolf granted summary judgment to the defendants, throwing out the case. Love appealed the ruling.

In the opinion, Hardwick wrote that Wolf properly granted summary judgment for the defendants. Judges Cynthia L. Martin and Edward R. Ardini Jr. concurred.

Love's sole argument on appeal was that she was not required to produce expert testimony to establish causation.

She argued that the fact she received an incorrect dose of the drug, combined with the fact that she immediately suffered symptoms of a morphine overdose, was sufficient to establish a causal link between the incorrect dose and her injuries.

The panel disagreed, ruling that because Love's injuries could have come from a morphine overdose, a normal dose of morphine, or some or all of the 12 other medications she was given the same day, her injuries were sophisticated and required scientific technique for diagnosis.

"Therefore, Love was required to produce expert testimony that, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the alleged morphine overdose caused her injuries," Hardwick wrote.

Love was represented by William P. Ronan III of The Ronan Law Firm in Overland Park, Kansas, and Michael W. Blanton of the Blanton Law Firm in Evergreen, Colorado.

Marc K. Erickson of Wagstaff & Cartmell in Kansas City represented the defendants.

Neither side could be reached for comment.

The case is Love v. Waring et al., WD81495.

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Publication:Missouri Lawyers Media
Date:Oct 18, 2018
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