Deasy v. US., 99 F.3d 354 (1996)

VA Hospital Malpractice; Failure To Refer Patient

Under Colorado and Maryland law, the evidence supported a district court's finding that Veterans Administration (VA) psychiatrists committed malpractice by failing to refer a patient for medical treatment for his edema, held the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. This was so even though the government claimed the plaintiff's psychiatrists were not qualified to offer expert opinion on the standard of care required of physicians who treat edema, since the relevant issues in the case were whether it was a breach of the psychiatric standard of care to fail to refer the patient and whether failure to do so increased the patient's psychiatric symptoms, on which the psychiatrists were qualified to give expert opinions, said the court.

The court also found that the district court's award of damages to the patient in the form of a reversionary trust for lifetime medical and psychiatric care outside the VA system was not clearly erroneous, as the patient was entitled to a lifetime of free care in government hospitals, but, due to the VA's malpractice, further treatment in a VA hospital would result in a recurrence of the patient's serious psychiatric problems.

In addition, the court held that an award of $600,000 to the patient for pain and suffering was not excessive. Failure to treat the patient's severe case of edema resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In this case, a patient brought a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit for medical malpractice against the U.S. and VA hospitals. The district court entered judgment for the patient, and the appeals court affirmed.