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Matis Baum O’Connor Joins Fight to have Mitchell v. Shikora Decision Overturned

17 January 2018

Pittsburgh, PA, United States — Attorneys from Matis Baum O’Connor, a law firm that specializes in representing health care professionals, have joined the fight to have a controversial decision of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania overturned.

The case, Mitchell v. Shikora, has essentially established a strict liability standard for surgeons. It involved a patient who sued her obstetrical and gynecological surgeon due to a bowel injury that occurred during her hysterectomy in May 2012. During the trial, the judge allowed testimony that such bowel injuries were a known risk and complication of laparoscopic hysterectomies. The jury found for the defense and the plaintiffs appealed. In May, the Superior Court reversed, holding that defendants in medical malpractice cases should be barred from introducing any evidence of a surgery’s risks and complications. The court’s ruling was unprecedented: no other Pennsylvania appellate court has held such evidence to be irrelevant.

The case is now on appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Given the significant impact the Superior Court’s decision could have on medical malpractice liability, the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society retained Matis Baum O’Connor attorneys M. Brian O’Connor, Esq., and Michael K. Feeney, Esq., to represent it in filing an Amicus Curiae brief in the case. In such “friend of the court” filings, non-litigants are permitted to present their concerns and provide information that might benefit the court’s understanding of the issue at hand.

Here, attorneys O’Connor and Feeney gave voice to the PAOS, offering in-depth analysis of the flaws in the Superior Court’s reasoning and highlighting how it departed significantly from longstanding legal precedent. They also offered a reminder of the medical malpractice crisis that rocked Pennsylvania just 15 years ago, causing insurance premiums for physicians to rise by 40 percent in 2002 and 54 percent in 2003. “It is not difficult to imagine a similar medical malpractice crisis occurring,” they argued, “as a result of the Superior Court’s decision in this case.”

The PAOS is Pennsylvania’s leading orthopaedic organization, consisting of over 1,200 orthopaedic surgeons, residents, and fellows across Pennsylvania. Funding support was provided in part by the Medical Protective Insurance Company, Medical Mutual Insurance Company, ProAssurance Companies, and the Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company. Attorneys Joseph H. Blum, Esq., and Phil S. Goldberg, Esq., from Shook, Hardy, and Bacon, LLP, also participated in the Amicus Curiae effort.