Returning to Doctor or Hospital After Alleging Malpractice Occurred

December 13, 2021

Patients often return to a doctor or hospital for treatment after alleging that the doctor or hospital has committed malpractice. One of the main reasons for this occurring is because there are simply no other healthcare providers in the area who are willing to provide treatment. While it is certainly understandable, the problem is that if a malpractice claim is filed jurors may question why a patient would return to a healthcare provider if that patient truly believed that their healthcare provider had provided negligent care. In Sydenstricker v. Mohan, 618 S.E.2d 561 (W.Va. 2005) a mother continued to seek treatment for her child from a doctor she had sued on her child’s behalf. The trial court recognized that evidence of the fact that the patient continued treating with the physician after suing the physician was prejudicial. However, the court allowed this fact into evidence holding that the probative value of this evidence outweighed its prejudicial value. The court noted that the rules of evidence were never intended to exclude relevant evidence simply because it is detrimental to one party’s case. The West Virginia Supreme Court agreed declaring that, “We hold that a defendant who continues to be the treating physician for a plaintiff after the plaintiff files a medical malpractice complaint against him/her, may testify regarding his/her post-complaint treatment of the plaintiff so long as the probative value of the testimony is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.” In that case, the West Virginia Supreme Court found that the evidence was critical for assessing issues pertaining to liability and damages. This case illustrates the simple fact that returning to a doctor or hospital whom you alleged committed malpractice, may be detrimental to your case.