Civil Procedure Keyed to Friedenthal
Hicks v. United States
Greitens, the decedent, went to an infirmary located on a naval base after she had been vomiting for an hour. The doctor that examined her, felt her abdomen and looked at her medical records. He noted that she had gastroenteritis, told Greitens she had a “bug” and told her to go home and come back in 8 hours. The next morning, Greitens drank a glass of water and then passed out. She died later on at the hospital due to an obstruction that ruptured her intestine. Plaintiff, the administrator of Greitens’ estate, sued the Government based on the alleged negligence of the doctor. Under Virginia law, the standard applicable to this case, if a doctor used ordinary care in reaching the diagnosis, then the doctor was not negligent even if it is later found that the diagnosis was a mistake. The Plaintiff’s experts testified that the standard practice in this situation is to conduct more than a mere cursory examination. An obstruction can be fatal and tests are usually done in order to rule out this possibility. The doctor that treated Greitens admitted that the accepted standard was to conduct a rectal exam and ask about diarrhea, both of which the doctor had not done. The District Court found that the doctor had rendered diagnosis with ordinary care and dismissed Plaintiff’s case. Plaintiff appealed.
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