The Appellate Group

Zendler v. University of Utah Health Care

Zendler v. University of Utah Health Care, 2020 UT App 143 (Appleby, J.)

Medical Malpractice

A patient underwent a knee replacement by a Utah doctor, signing a document signifying that he understood the risks of nonhealing, infection, and amputation. After the surgery, the patient got an infection in his knee replacement, and the Utah doctor treated the infection and prescribed a course of antibiotics. A few months later, a Wyoming doctor had the patient stop all his antibiotics and performed another surgery on the patient’s knee to improve the range of motion. After the knee was infected and several surgeries later, the patient had his leg amputated. The patient sued the Utah doctor. The district court dismissed the suit on summary judgment. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  1. The district court properly determined that the Utah doctor had established his affirmative defense as a matter of law: that the Wyoming doctor’s care was the superseding cause of the patient’s injury. All the experts agreed that the infection was under control when the Wyoming doctor intervened, and the Wyoming doctor stopping the course of antibiotics and performing surgery broke the causation sequence. 
  2. The district court properly concluded that the Utah doctor met the statutory informed consent requirements based on the undisputed facts that the Utah doctor conveyed to the patient the potential risks specific to his surgery, including the risk of infection and amputation. The informed consent statute does not require health care providers to parse out the percentage or likelihood of each risk.

Read the full court opinion