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Brooks Schuelke
Brooks Schuelke
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John Ritter Medical Malpractice Case Comes to An End

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We had previously posted about the medical malpractice case filed by John Ritter’s widow. After a long and grueling trial, the case came to a close last Friday when the jury found that the two remaining doctors had not committed medical malpractice in providing treatment to the actor. Prior to this trial, the hospital and other entities had entered settlements with the family.

The case can be a lesson about medical malpractice claims. From reading articles on the story, it appears that the jury was hung up on causation. In a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff must not only prove that the doctors acted negligently, but also that the negligence caused the harm. As demonstrated by this case, that can often be difficult. The two doctors in the trial argued that they didn’t cause the death because it was too late — John Ritter was already having a heart attack when they saw him, and Mr. Ritter was not going to survive regardless of what the doctors did.

This is a common defense in medical malpractice cases. Many doctors won’t contest that they were negligent, but they argue that their negligence didn’t cause the underlying harm. For example, when a plaintiff is claiming that a doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose a condition, the plaintiff must show that the diagnoses should have been made in time to make a difference in the patient’s life. Similarly, if a doctor delays in providing some treatment, the plaintiff must prove that the delay caused some significant injury (while a delay in treatment often means the patient unnecessarily contines with pain for a while, that pain alone is rarely enough to justify the expense of a medical malpractice trial).