$7M Settlement With Out-of-State Defendant Bars Med Mal Suit

The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that a plaintiff may not sue two prominent Philadelphia hospitals over an injury for which she obtained a $7 million settlement in a separate Ohio action…law.com, Pa. Appeals Court: $7M Settlement With Out-of-State Defendant Bars Plaintiff’s Med Mal Suit, Jan 2024


The court determined Jan. 25 that the plaintiff could not pursue her claims against the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania because they were incompatible with those she brought against the Ohio defendants in the other suit.


According to the plaintiff’s attorney, the court’s precedential opinion delves into issues of judicial estoppel that remain fuzzy in Pennsylvania. The case, captioned N.T. v. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was unusual because it involved claims against joint tortfeasors that began in one court but were eventually split across two jurisdictions. That created an “empty chair” in each case that both sets of defendants could potentially blame as the reason for the plaintiffs’ injuries.


The plaintiff, the estate of a minor referred to as N.T., originally sued several health care providers in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas over injuries N.T. sustained while in utero.


The court dismissed a set of Ohio-based defendants from the matter for jurisdictional reasons, and the plaintiffs then filed a new complaint against the dismissed defendants in Ohio federal court while pursuing a separate action against CHOP and HUP in Philadelphia.


The plaintiffs went on to obtain a $7 million settlement with the Ohio defendants shortly before the suit went to trial.


With the Ohio matter resolved, CHOP and HUP contended that N.T.’s Philadelphia claims were barred by judicial estoppel because the plaintiffs took inconsistent positions on the cause of N.T.’s injuries in the two cases.


The plaintiffs argued that judicial estoppel did not apply because the Ohio matter was resolved through a settlement rather than a jury or court determination. They further asserted that inconsistent statements made by the plaintiffs’ experts were not the same as inconsistent admissions by the party.


But both the trial court and the Superior Court agreed with the defendant.


Indeed, the court noted in its opinion that “the law is presently unclear” as to whether a plaintiff must have successfully backed its first claims for judicial estoppel to apply to its later claims.


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