Fraud vs. Medical Malpractice, and Caps on Damages

Goldenberg v. Woodard, (Nev. 2014)

In this case, the Nevada Supreme Court decided that a fraud action against a doctor cannot be recast into a suit for medical malpractice.

The case involved a physician who failed to disclose to his patient that he was not authorized to perform unsupervised colonoscopy. The physician then carried out the colonoscopy procedure and perforated the patient’s colon.

The Court held that the patient can sue the physician for fraud and that her compensation consequently will not be limited by Nevada’s $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice. The Court based this decision on California law that separates allegations of fraud arising from “wrongful intentional conduct” from “mere negligence” (citing Covenant Care, Inc. v. Superior Court, 86 P.3d 290, 295 (Cal.2004)).

The Court also ruled that the abovementioned cap “limits noneconomic damages to an aggregate of $350,000 per incident, regardless of how many plaintiffs, defendants, or claims are involved.” The Court based this decision on the statutory switch (in NRS 41A.031) from a cap that limited “the noneconomic damages awarded to each plaintiff from each defendant” to a cap that limits “the amount of noneconomic damages awarded in such an action.”