• February 28, 2012

On October 20, 2007, after a frenzied two-day effort to save Minnesotan Michael Kramer, Kramer died in a St. Cloud hospital from thrombocytopenia, a condition where patients have a shortage of platelets, an ingredient in blood essential to clotting.  Without platelets, one can die from internal bleeding.

About two years later, well within the three-year statute of limitation for medical malpractice claims under Minnesota law, Robert Kramer, as trustee for Michael Kramer’s estate, brought a malpractice claim in Stearns County District Court (Judge Vicki E. Landwehr) but in May of last year, plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim also died.

Plaintiff sued the wrong medical entity according to defendants and, according to the Stearns County District Court Judge, the plaintiff’s expert opinions failed to link any alleged malpractice to the cause of plaintiff’s death.

Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed.  Specifically, the Court held that plaintiff’s apparently naming the incorrect defendants did not doom his case; he could name the new entity and have the timing for the suit against the new entities “relate back” to the time of his initial complaint.  Furthermore, plaintiff had hired particularly experienced and pedigreed experts and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s finding that plaintiff’s claims failed for a lack of causation.

Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge David Minge dissented on the panel’s analysis of “apparent authority,” by which the hospital successfully got out of the case though the doctors and nurses did not, concluding his dissent:

Although I would not decide the apparent authority issue here, I would not reject it on the basis of the McElwain decision.  Any decision by this court with regard to apparent authority constitutes an expansion of Minnesota common law.  Rejection of apparent authority as a basis for recovery expands Minnesota law for the benefit of the hospitals.  Recognition of apparent authority expands Minnesota law for the benefit of patients.  Reference to this court’s error-correcting role is a thumb on the scale.

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