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Hurd v. Yaeger

August 13, 2009

BRAYDEN HURD, A MINOR, BY HIS PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS, KATRINA ENGLE AND BRYAN HURD, AND KATRINA ENGLE AND BRYAN HURD IN THEIR OWN RIGHT, PLAINTIFFS
v.
THOMAS A YAEGER, M.D.; BAMBI PETRINIC, M.D.; ROBERT PACKER HOSPITAL; GUTHRIE CLINIC SAYRE; GUTHRIE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is the defendants' motion to strike plaintiffs' rebuttal expert reports in this medical malpractice action. Having been fully briefed, this matter is ripe for disposition.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Katrina Engle, approximately twenty-eight weeks pregnant at the time, presented to a physician at defendant Guthrie Clinic Sayre ("Clinic") on March 13, 2006 complaining of abdominal discomfort, cramping, and feeling "like her fetus's head was pushing down." (Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 72) at ¶ 13) (hereinafter "Am. Complt."). Plaintiff Engle was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and sent home. (Id.). Later that day, Plaintiff Engle telephoned the Clinic and spoke to a nurse regarding further cramping and vaginal bleeding, but she was told that these symptoms were consistent with a urinary tract infection. (Id. at ¶ 14).

That same evening, Plaintiff Engle visited defendant Robert Packer Hospital ("Hospital") complaining of the same symptoms during an evaluation by Defendant Dr. Bambi Petrinic, M.D. (Id. at ¶ 15-18). By telephone, Defendant Petrinic consulted the attending physician on call, Defendant Dr. Thomas A. Yaeger, M.D. (Id. at ¶ 20). Defendant Yaeger relied on Defendant Petrinic's report at the time and did not personally examine Plaintiff Engle. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-22). Plainitff Engle was subsequently discharged from the Hospital at 7:30 PM. (Id. at ¶ 23).

At approximately 12:30 AM on March 14, 2006, Plaintiff Engle presented to Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, New York, again with complaints of sharp abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding. (Id. at ¶ 24). Upon examination, Plaintiff Engle's cervix was found to be fully dilated. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff Engle went into premature labor. (Id.). Minor-plaintiff Brayden Hurd was born early that morning with a host of physical and mental conditions related to his premature birth, including several heart and lung ailments and various developmental deficits. (Id. at ¶¶ 12, 26).

This medical malpractice case was commenced on September 28, 2006, by way of Complaint. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs assert that Defendants Yaeger and Petrinic failed to meet the standard of care in treating Plaintiff Engle and Minor-Plaintiff Hurd. According to the plaintiffs, the defendants specifically failed to recognize the risk factors and symptoms of Plaintiff Engle's pre-term labor and dispense tocolytics, or labor-delaying drugs, so that Minor-Plaintiff Hurd could develop further through the administration of steroid treatments. (Brief in Support of Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' Rebuttal Expert Reports (Doc. 114) at 2, 12) (hereinafter "Brief in Opposition").

On March 24, 2008, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint and added a new party, Defendant Petrinic. (Doc. 72). A rescheduling order for a new round of discovery set July 1, 2008 as an initial fact discovery deadline, as well as the date plaintiffs' expert reports were due. (Order, April 23, 2008 (Doc. 87) at ¶ 1). Although the plaintiff's initial expert reports were served by that date, the defendants sought and received an extension to complete their expert reports after the timeliness of the plaintiffs' initial examination disclosures came into question. (See Defendant's Motion to Extend Case Management Deadlines (Doc. 90)). An amended case management order set forth the following deadlines that same year: defendants' expert reports by September 1, plaintiffs' rebuttal expert reports by October 1; and defendants' rebuttal reports by November 1. (Order, July 18, 2008 (Doc. 96) at ¶ 1).

All parties followed the amended case management order. The defendants served the reports of experts in the fields of neurodevelopment and maternal fetal medicine in a timely manner. (Brief in Opposition at 4). In turn, the plaintiffs served eleven expert rebuttal reports on October 1, 2008. (Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' Rebuttal Reports (Doc. 107) at ¶ 5) (hereinafter "Motion to Strike")). Defendants now challenge the reports of Plaintiff experts Dr. Harlan Giles, M.D., Dr. Michael Steinhardt, Psy.D, and Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D*fn1 arguing that they are not rebuttal reports at all, but "blatant and impermissible attempts by Plaintiffs to introduce new theories, correct and redo old theories...or simply brand new examinations." (Id. at ¶ 6). Although both sides have consulted multiple experts throughout discovery, the defendants now seek refuge in this court's scheduling order and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, alleging surreptitious litigation tactics by the plaintiffs.

JURISDICTION

Minor-Plaintiff Hurd, Plaintiff Engle, and Plaintiff Bryan Hurd are citizens of New York. (Am. Cmplt. at ¶ 1-3). Defendant Yeager is licensed to practice medicine and currently practices in Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 4). At all times relevant, Defendant Petrinic was and is licensed to practice medicine in Pennsylvania and practiced in Pennsylvania where the subject incident took place. (Id. at ¶ 5). Defendants Robert Packer Hospital, Guthrie Clinic Sayre, and Guthrie Health Care System are corporations or legal entities organized and existing under the laws of Pennsylvania. (Id. at 6-8). The amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. (Id. at ¶ 10). This court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

DISCUSSION

Defendants contend that the reports of Giles, Steinhardt, and Hafeez are untimely and should be stricken from the record. However, plaintiffs' rebuttal expert reports were served in accordance with the court-imposed October 1, 2008 deadline, which the defendants acknowledge. (Motion to Strike at ΒΆ 5). A careful, substantive analysis of the expert reports in ...


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