January 30, 2015

Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Decide Use of Informed Consent Evidence in Medical Malpractice Cases

The issue of whether the Superior Court erred in applying a blanket prohibition of evidence of a plaintiff’sconsent to surgeries and knowledge of the risks associated with the plaintiff’s surgeries in a medical malpractice case will be decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In Brady v. Urbas, a plaintiff and her husband brought negligence and consortium claims against the plaintiff-wife’s podiatrist who had performed four surgeries on her toe. After a jury found in favor of the defendant, the Superior Court ordered a new trial holding that “evidence of informed consent is irrelevant in a medical malpractice case.” Specifically, the Superior Court held that a patient’s informed consent to the risks of surgery could not form the “central component” of a doctor’s defense in a medical malpractice action. The Superior Court found that repeated references to the plaintiff’s consent to surgery, including evidence of her signed consent forms, misled or confused the jury.

The Supreme Court last month heard argument on the issue of whether the Superior Court should have adopted a blanket prohibition of informed consent evidence in a medical malpractice case. Counsel for the plaintiff urged the Supreme Court to adopt a per se rule, while counsel for the defendant argued that informed consent evidence was necessary to “rebut the lulling into a false sense of security claim” and to rebut the plaintiff’s misrepresentation claim.

What It Means to You

The Supreme Court’s decision will have a significant impact on the defense of medical malpractice claims and the admissibility of important evidence, including consent forms, where the plaintiff is not explicitly asserting a claim for lack of informed consent. Cipriani & Werner will continue to monitor this important decision