Cuenca v. Physicians Clinic, Inc

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Cuenca v. Physicians Clinic, Inc

Case Number
Call Date
December 4, 2018
Court Number
Case Location
Case Summary

S-17-0627 Cuenca (Appellees/Cross-Appellants) v. Physicians Clinic, Inc. (Appellants)

Douglas County District Court, Marlon A. Polk

Attorneys: Joseph P. Cullan, Patrick J. Cullan (Cullan & Cullan) (Appellees/Cross-Appellants) --- Mary M. Schott, Catherine L. Stegman, Rober A. Mooney (Sodoro Daly Shomaker & Selde P.C., L.L.O.) (Appellants) --- William M. Lamson, Jr., William R. Settles, Jason W. Grams (Lamson, Dugan & Murray, L.L.P.) (State of Nebraska, Intervenor)

Civil: Medical Negligence; Nebraska Hospital-Medical Liability Act; Due Process; Evidence;

Proceedings below: Following an 11-day trial, a jury returned verdicts in favor of Jackson Cuenca in the amount of $8,942,000, Emily Cuenca in the amount of $2,328,000, and John Cuenca in the amount of $250,000. Appellants filed a motion requesting that the trial court enter judgment on the verdict in the amount of $1,750,000, the maximum amount recoverable under the Nebraska Hospital-Medical Liability Act (the “Act”). Appellees/Cross-Appellants objected to the entry of judgment and instigated a new round of fact and expert discovery to obtain evidence they wished to use in challenging the constitutionality of the Act. The State was allowed to intervene to address the constitutional issues.
After extended post-trial proceedings, the trial court determined that the Act was constitutional and entered judgment on the verdict in accordance with the Act’s cap on damages. Appellees/Cross-Appellants filed a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment reiterating their constitutional arguments and requested an award of prejudgment interest. Over the objections of Appellants and the State, the trial court then amended the judgment to award prejudgment interest, exceeding the limits imposed by the Act.

Issues: Whether the trial court erred 1) in failing to adhere to the Nebraska Rules of Evidence, the Nebraska Case Progression Standards, and the Nebraska Rules of Discovery; 2) in allowing Appellees’ experts to testify at trial on subjects outside their areas of expertise; 3) in allowing Appellees and their counsel to violate discovery rules and orders, and violate hearsay to publish exhibits and photograph not produced or disclosed prior to trial or in accordance with the Court’s scheduling orders; 4) in allowing Appellees to elicit and publish hearsay from lay and expert witnesses; 5) in allowing lay witnesses to testify regarding the standard of care for a physician; 6) in allowing Appellees counsel to advocate and introduce evidence to support incorrect legal standards; 7) in prohibiting relevant and admissible testimony of treating physicians; 8) in allowing Appellees attorneys to inform the jury during closing arguments that they were doctors; 9) in answering the jury’s questions without notifying Appellants counsel that there were questions; 10) in failing to grant Appellants’ motions for mistrial; and 11) in awarding pre-judgment interest to Appellees.

Issues on cross-appeal: Whether the trial court erred in 1) in finding that any defendant is entitled to liability limitations under the Act; 2) in denying Appellees/Cross-Appellants the opportunity to develop and present evidence; and 3) in finding that the overall limitation on damages imposed by the Act is constitutional.