Summary Judgment in Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Lawsuits

Most people know that when they are injured in a Washington, D.C. accident, they may be able to sue the negligent party in court to recover for their damages. When potential plaintiffs picture filing a lawsuit against a negligent party, however, they usually picture a dramatic court scene, with lawyers making impassioned and heated arguments in front of a judge and jury. While this situation does occasionally indeed occur in D.C. courts, what many people do not realize is how many personal injury cases are decided way before a trial is even scheduled. One common way is by a court granting a motion for summary judgment.

Summary judgment is proper when there is no dispute of material facts, and the facts at hand can lead to only one outcome. Typically, a party will file what is called a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to weigh the entire record in front of them and determine that the other party could not possibly win. Sometimes both parties will file for summary judgment, convinced that they must win based on the evidence. When considering the motions, the judge draws all inferences in favor of the non-moving party.

In a recent opinion, a federal appellate court considered whether or not summary judgment was proper in a medical malpractice case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was admitted to the defendant hospital for cardiac bypass surgery. During his time in the hospital and during surgery, however, complications arose, which resulted in the plaintiff needing to have a double amputation. Afterward, the plaintiff sued the hospital, alleging that they were negligent by not removing contaminated heparin, a certain drug, from their stocks. According to the plaintiff, the contaminated drug was what caused the complications, and as such, the hospital was liable for the resulting injuries.

The defendant hospital filed a motion for summary judgment. As the court noted, the issue at summary judgment turned on the plaintiff’s ability to prove that the hospital administered contaminated heparin to him. The hospital did not record lot numbers of the product they gave him, so there is no definitive proof either way. While the trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, the appellate court actually reversed. The court reasoned that, in this case, there were disputed issues of fact and conflicting expert opinions, meaning it is not clear that the defendants were entitled to judgment. As such, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment, meaning that the case could likely move forward to a jury trial, for the jury to consider the evidence and make their ruling.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Accident?

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of medical malpractice in Washington, D.C., contact the personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, as soon as possible to discuss your options. Our attorneys focus on personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death cases in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas. We are knowledgeable about common barriers plaintiffs face when bringing these claims and how to overcome them. Additionally, we are not afraid to carry a case through trial to achieve the best possible results for our clients. To learn more, call us today at 800-654-1949.

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