Miss. Supreme Court to consider clarifying medical malpractice limits

Published 5:50 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Mississippi Supreme Court will consider a federal appeals panel’s request to clarify when the clock starts ticking on the filing of certain medical malpractice claims.

The case is among dozens the Supreme Court will consider during the March-April term.

In November, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it believed there was confusion in Mississippi law and court decisions on the statute of limitations.

Specifically, the panel asked the Mississippi court to clarify how the statute of limitations applies in circumstances “where the alleged negligence is either the administration of a drug by a physician or the physician’s failure to disclose about the risks of a drug, and experts disagree as to whether the drug caused the plaintiff’s injuries.”

In 2006, the 5th Circuit overturned a medical malpractice verdict for Barbara Huss, who had sued a Memphis, Tenn., clinic over medical treatment provided during her pregnancy. Huss lives in Mississippi and filed her lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oxford.

Huss sued after a difficult pregnancy in 1998, from which she claimed to have experienced complications into 1999. Huss’ initial lawsuit was dismissed in 1999 and she refiled in 2000 against the clinic and Dr. John Gayden.

Huss contended she was prescribed a drug during her pregnancy that later led to heart and lung problems. A federal jury in Mississippi awarded Huss $3.5 million in damages.

The defendants claimed Huss waited too late to file her lawsuit, citing Mississippi law that gave a plaintiff two years to file a lawsuit after a condition was diagnosed.

The 5th Circuit sided with the defendants and threw out the jury award. However, the new 5th Circuit panel in November said the statute of limitations should be clarified.

Among other cases before the Supreme Court are:

— A challenge to the city of Meridian’s annexation of 9.3 square miles, which was approved by a judge in 2006. The annexation case pitted the city against Lauderdale County, the town of Marion and others.

Meridian’s population declined from 49,374 in 1960 to 39,559 in 2003, a fact that annexation opponents argued was a reason to deny the city’s request.

The judge said the “decline can partly be explained by the lack of suitable, developable land within the city.”

— An appeal of a judge’s decision in 2007 that upheld the certificate of need granted to Greenville’s Delta Regional Medical Center to locate a 40-bed, long-term, acute care hospital unit at The King’s Daughters Hospital campus.

The granting of the CON was opposed by Greenwood Leflore Hospital and Greenwood Specialty Hospital.

The Mississippi Department of Health approved the CON in December 2006.

To control costs, avoid duplication of services and protect existing health care providers from competition, states control the building of hospitals and other major health care facilities through the issuance of CONs.

The process controls the number of hospitals and other medical institutions throughout a state. Officials favoring the rules say they promote economic efficiency.

— Christopher McCune’s appeal of his 2007 conviction of murder and life sentence in Newton County for his role in the shooting death of James “J.J.” Bolton.

McCune also was found guilty of aggravated assault in the shooting of Kathy Hardy. For that, McCune was sentenced to 25 years in prison to be served concurrently with the life sentence. Hardy was riding in Bolton’s car when he was shot, authorities said.

Bolton was shot and killed Aug. 13, 2006, while he was driving his car on a Newton street. Bolton owned J.J.’s Easy Stop in Newton.