Although medical malpractice suits against the VA are often complicated by the specialized requirements under the Federal Torts Claims Act or the unique rules for medical malpractice actions pursuant to Georgia state law, sometimes the issue holding a case back is simply the theory of liability, the evidence provided, or failing to proactively litigate. These more commonplace issues are at the center of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia’s recent opinion in Stidham v. U.S., which involved the alleged failure of the VA to provide a patient with a necessary medical apparatus within a reasonable period of time.
As alluded to above, the plaintiff in the case was a patient at the VA Medical Center in Atlanta. The plaintiff had gone to the VA for medical care, and during the course of that care he was informed by a nurse practitioner employed at the VA that he would need to wear a knee brace. Although he was required to wear a knee brace and his prescription for the brace was made on July 16, 2010, the plaintiff claims that he did not receive the brace for nearly a year. He avers he received the brace on June 6, 2011. The VA refutes these facts and claims instead that the prescription was actually for three different braces, two of which the plaintiff received at the time and the third which was not in stock at the VA at the time the plaintiff received his prescription. However, the VA maintains that the third brace was mailed to the plaintiff on August 10, 2010, slightly less than a month after he received the prescription. The plaintiff then brought a medical malpractice action against the VA, alleging that the delay in delivery of the knee brace was unreasonable. Following some discovery, the VA made a motion for summary judgment, to which the plaintiff did not respond, submit a statement of material facts, or provide opposing expert testimony.