Why it matters: Rule 9(j) very briefly.
Rule 9(j) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure requires plaintiffs filing medical malpractice complaints to include a specific allegation that the medical care and records have been reviewed by an expert who meets certain qualifications and who is willing to testify that there was a breach of the standard of care. If a plaintiff fails to include the Rule 9(j) language before the underlying statute of limitations expires, the complaint “shall be dismissed.” This special pleading requirement does not apply to other types of malpractice or to ordinary negligence actions. Rule 9(j) was enacted as an attempt to curb frivolous medical malpractice claims. But it has had the side effect of generating more than its fair share of appellate wrangling. Since it was enacted in 1995, well over 100 published opinions have been issued interpreting its undefined provisions, reconciling it with other procedural rules, and determining when it does and does not apply. [See an overview here.] One group of those opinions has examined whether the complaint actually alleged a “medical malpractice action” in the first place, or whether it merely stated a claim for ordinary negligence. If a claim is ordinary negligence, Rule 9(j) does not apply, even if the event occurred in a medical setting and the defendant was a “health care provider.”
Falling in a medical facility
Patient falls–either from standing or lying positions—have featured somewhat prominently in these cases. Where the court has concluded that the fall involved a provider’s clinical assessment or judgment, the claims have been classified as medical malpractice. See Sturgill v. Ashe Memorial Hospital, Inc., 186 N.C. App. 624 (2007) (failure to restrain fall-risk patient where restraints required medical order); Deal v. Frye Reg. Med. Ctr, 202 N.C. App. 584 (2010) (unpub’d) (failure to conduct requisite fall risk screening); see also Littlepaige v. US, 528 Fed Appx 289 (4th Cir. 2013) (unpub’d) (failure to secure patient who had been placed on “falls precaution”). Continue Reading