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Ortiz-Quinones v. Christiana Care Health Services, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware

March 8, 2018

CHRISTIANA CARE HEALTH SERVICES, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Defendant.

          Submitted: December 8, 2017


          Manuela Ortiz-Quinones, pro se

          Stephen J. Milewski, Esquire



         Defendant Christiana Care Health Services' Motion for Summary Judgment: Granted

         1. This medical negligence case arose after Plaintiff allegedly was injured in a fall following a procedure at Christiana Hospital. After the Court granted Plaintiffs counsel's motion to withdraw, Plaintiff proceeded pro se. Despite two continuances, Plaintiff has failed to identify and disclose the opinion of an expert who will testify for Plaintiff regarding Defendant's alleged deviation from the standard of care and a causal connection between the alleged breach of the standard of care and Plaintiffs injury. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment after five years of litigation. I find that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Plaintiff has failed to support an essential element of her medical negligence claim.


         2. In May 2012, Manuela Ortiz-Quinones ("Plaintiff) was admitted to Christiana Hospital for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Plaintiff was administered morphine and attached to an I.V. Plaintiff then was left unattended without a call bell. Plaintiff alleges that she fell and injured her shoulder while attempting to use the restroom unassisted. On October 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed a medical negligence claim against Christiana Care Health Services ("Defendant") for allegedly failing to exercise the degree of care expected of a reasonably competent health-care provider.[1]

         3. Plaintiffs efforts to bring her case to trial faced a series of obstacles. After more than three years of litigation, Plaintiffs counsel ("Counsel"), who originally agreed to litigate the case on a contingency basis, came to believe the merits of Plaintiff s case did not support continued investment, particularly in light of Plaintiffs inconsistent testimony during her deposition. In a letter dated January 13, 2017, Counsel explained that Defendant was not willing to make an offer to settle Plaintiffs claim. Due to the rising cost of litigation, Counsel requested that Plaintiff front the $15, 000 cost of proceeding to trial.[2] Plaintiff objected, arguing Counsel promised to advance the cost of the lawsuit. Counsel then moved to withdraw, stating Counsel and Plaintiff disagreed about the merits of the litigation and how to proceed. On March 20, 2017, the Court granted Counsel's motion and allowed Plaintiff 60 days to find new counsel. The Court's order was explained to Plaintiff through a certified interpreter.

         4. On March 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed a letter with the Court explaining she was having difficulty finding new counsel and asking the Court to decide Plaintiffs "best interest."[3] On April 5, 2017, the Court responded, advising Plaintiff that the Court could not decide what was in Plaintiffs best interest. The letter explained that the Court would schedule a conference to set a new trial date and new pre-trial deadlines. The Court held a scheduling conference on July 20, 2017, and set a trial date for May 14, 2018. A certified court interpreter was present to interpret the scheduling conference for Plaintiff.

         5. On August 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed two letters with the Court. The first requested the Court's assistance in finding new counsel. The second of the two August letters described Plaintiffs difficulty in obtaining representation for her case. In this letter, Plaintiff stated other attorneys would not take her case because Counsel "had [the case] too long."[4] Plaintiff pleaded for the Court to "not close [her] case."[5] The Court responded to Plaintiff by letter on September 8, 2017. In response to Plaintiffs concern that the Court would "close the case, " the Court reminded Plaintiff of the importance of complying with all deadlines regarding discovery and experts as the Court advised during the July scheduling conference. The Court warned that failure to do so could result in Defendant moving for judgment in its favor. Further, the Court reminded Plaintiff that expert testimony was necessary to prove her case to the jury, and that she must provide expert reports or disclosures to the Defendant by the October 2, 2017, deadline.

         6. On October 5, 2017, Plaintiff sent a fourth letter to the Court describing her inability to understand the Court's communications. Additionally, Plaintiff described her failure to secure representation and her attempts to comply with the deadlines by submitting records of the surgeries and medical treatment she underwent after her fall on May 12, 2012.

         7. On October 13, 2017, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment (the "Motion") due to Plaintiffs failure to submit expert reports or disclosures by the scheduled deadline. On October 16, 2017, the Court sent a letter to the parties scheduling oral argument on the Motion for December 8, 2017. The letter acknowledged Plaintiffs frustrations expressed in her October 5th ...

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