Bioethics Blogs

Jahi McMath – Assess Whether She Is Alive in April 2017

This week, one of the medical defendants in Jahi McMath’s medical malpractice action filed a case management statement.  

It states that an IME (Independent Medical Exam) will be completed by 04/30/17.  This means that the defendants (jointly or individually) plan to have one or more retained independent medical experts physically examine Jahi in New Jersey.

While the purpose of this IME may be to assess the liability issues (i.e. did defendants commit malpractice), it seems that the primary purpose of the IME will be to assess damages.  Specifically, is Jahi McMath now alive or dead?  The answer to that question can change the value of the medical malpractice case by many millions of dollars.

However, the IME may not go forward in April 2017.  The plaintiffs have renewed their motion to bifurcate the trial and discovery.  They argue that it will be more efficient to first litigate the liability issues.  Stage one: have a jury determine whether the defendants were negligent and whether that negligence caused Jahi brain injury.

Only if the jury makes such a finding on liability, will it be necessary to move to stage two: is Jahi now alive and what is the appropriate amount of compensation.  This is the far more complicated question, so it seems efficient to sequence the trial to avoid having to answer this if possible.

The hearing on the motion to bifurcate is on April 27, 2017 in Alameda County Superior Court Dept. 16.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.