Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Wicks v. Antelope Valley Healthcare Dist. (Cal. Ct. App. - June 1, 2020)

It's not that I didn't appreciate the opportunity to read this case.  I did.  It's about someone who's feeling severe chest pains, goes to the emergency room at 4 in the morning, gets somewhat minimal diagnostic treatment there (e.g., there's an ECG/EKG and a chest x-ray, but no CT scan), gets sent home, and dies eight hours later of an acute aortic dissection.  A CT would have caught the aortic dissection, and there were plenty of hints that this might be a problem (a BMI of 33, high blood pressure and cholesterol, history of smoking, etc.), but basically the hospital was just looking for a regular old heart attack, not a dissection.

Which is a reminder to choose an ER carefully.

But what struck me most about the opinion was that it was incredibly case- and fact-specific, with excruciating detail about particular evidentiary objections, the status of particular nurses and doctors and this particular hospital, the specific facts of this particular patient's medical treatment, etc.  All of which was indeed necessary to resolve whether the trial court here properly granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment.  But nothing in the opinion jumped out at me as anything legally or doctrinally important, which is the standard guideline for deciding whether or not an opinion gets published.  This just seemed instead to be one of the many run-of-the-mill, fact-bound MSJ appeals that the Court of Appeal resolves every day.

There are definitely varying applications of the publication standard amongst the various divisions and panels in the Court of Appeal.  This is a good example, I think, of an opinion that many (perhaps most) panels would elect to leave unpublished.

Not much harm in publishing, of course.  Just wastes some trees, and maybe is helpful -- or at least marginally so -- for someone in an arguably factually analogous situation at some point in the future.

But you can put this opinion on one extreme side of the "publish-or-not-publish" spectrum.  So a good example of the disparity between panels and opinions on this score.

And a reminder that severe pain in your chest can be a dissection instead of a heart attack.  A definite killer.