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Obstruction of Justice by a Health Care Provider

October 22nd, 2008

The NC Supreme Court on October 10, 2008 has affirmed a previous Court of Appeals ruling, in a case in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant hospital obstructed justice when it destroyed or misplaced the plaintiff’s x-ray reports and medical records, after having been placed on notice of the plaintiffs request for the same, precluding her from filing a medical negligence lawsuit against the hospital after her husband died from misdiagnosed knee cancer.  The Court of Appeals stated, “We hold that such acts by Defendant, if true, ‘would be acts which obstruct impede or hinder public or legal justice and would amount to the common law offense of obstructing public justice.’ Grant v. High Point Regional Health System,  484 N.C. App. 250, 645 S.E. 2d. 851(2007), rev. allowed by  360 N.C. 63, 621 S.E. 2d. 441 (March 6, 2008),  rev. improvidently allowed ____ N.C. ____, ____ S.E.2d ____, 2008 WL 4530631 (October 10, 2008)
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This is an important case as applies to nursing home litigation, as far too often we are confronted with situations in which evidence has been lost, misplaced, or destroyed.  Nursing homes and other health care providers should know that the intentional, or unintentional but negligent, destruction of evidence, exposes them to legal claims of obstruction of justice.  This is an important safeguard to patient safety and the preservation of legal lights of residents of facilities.