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Nursing Professor’s Affidavit Insufficient To Establish Community Standard of Care in Paraplegic’s Lawsuit


A paraplegic man was admitted to the defendant hospital suffering from pneumonia. Hospital staff allowed the man to have his shower chair brought from home. A nurse placed the shower chair in the shower, and then allowed the man to transfer himself from his wheelchair to the shower chair. During that transfer the shower chair slipped and the man fell injuring his shoulder.

 

The man sued the hospital for negligence. After discovery the plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the issues of negligence and causation. In support of this motion the plaintiff submitted the affidavit of a professor of nursing to establish the applicable standard of care. The district court granted the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on the questions of liability and proximate cause and ultimately awarded the patient $1 million in damages, the maximum allowable under the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act (PSTCA), and attorney fees over and above the capped damages.

 

The Supreme Court of Nebraska reversed the trial court’s decision on the basis that the nursing school professor’s affidavit was did not establish the hospital's standard of care to the patient. Specifically, the nursing school professor’s affidavit and curriculum vitae did not establish that she was competent to testify as to the relevant community standards. This competency is necessary in order for the affidavit to sufficiently address whether the medical treatment the plaintiff received at the defendant hospital was undertaken with the degree of care, skill, and diligence used by hospitals generally in the community where the hospital is located or in similar communities.

 

There was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the hospital, in allowing the paraplegic patient to transfer himself from his wheelchair to the shower chair, breached the standard of care of hospitals generally in the community where the hospital was located or in similar communities. Therefore, summary judgment was precluded.

 

See: Green v. Box Butte General Hosp., 284 Neb. 243 (August 3, 2012).

 

 

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