Last week, in Savino v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued a 5-1 ruling in favor of the Plaintiff in a medical negligence lawsuit, reinstating a $5.5 million dollar jury verdict that had previously been set aside by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Patterson Harkavy attorneys Burton Craige, Trisha Pande, and Narendra Ghosh submitted an amicus brief to the Court on behalf of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, in support of the Plaintiff’s position.
The plaintiff in the case, Anthony Savino, died of a heart attack after the hospital prematurely discharged him from its emergency department. Savino’s estate brought a medical negligence action against the hospital on the theories that it was negligent in providing medical care and performing its administrative duties. The jury found the hospital acted with reckless disregard for the safety of the patient – a finding that obviated the statutory cap on damages – and awarded plaintiff $5.5 million in non-economic damages.
The Court of Appeals held that omissions in the plaintiff’s complaint precluded trial on plaintiff’s theory of administrative negligence. It also set aside the jury award for non-economic damages, finding that plaintiff’s medical expert testimony was insufficient to support damages for pain and suffering.
After the Supreme Court granted discretionary review, NCAJ filed an amicus brief, authored by attorneys at Patterson Harkavy LLP, urging reinstatement of the jury verdict. First, NCAJ argued that the Court of Appeals decision departed from the modern standards for notice pleading when it held that omissions in plaintiff’s complaint precluded trial on a theory of administrative negligence. Second, it asserted that the Court of Appeals impermissibly usurped the fact-finding role of the jury when it re-weighed conflicting expert testimony on pain and suffering and found plaintiff’s evidence to be insufficient.
In a 5-1 opinion written by Justice Hudson, the Supreme Court agreed with NCAJ on the issue of pain and suffering, and reinstated the $5.5 million verdict for non-economic damages. The court further held that the Court of Appeals erred in failing to recognize that a claim for medical malpractice encompasses the theory of administrative negligence.