Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama

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In consolidated petitions, defendant Mobile Infirmary Medical Center ("MIMC") sought a writ of mandamus to direct the Mobile Circuit Court to vacate portions of its May 5, 2017, discovery orders. More specifically, in case no. 1160731, MIMC sought mandamus review of the portion of the trial court's order compelling MIMC to produce certain documents previously submitted to the trial court for in camera review on the ground that the documents are protected from discovery under section 6-5-551 and/or section 22-21-8, Ala. Code 1975. In case no. 1160815, MIMC sought mandamus review of another May 5, 2017, order denying MIMC's motions seeking reconsideration of, or in the alternative, a protective order regarding the trial court's November 10, 2016 order compelling MIMC's response to various discover requests. The underlying case centered on a negligence action brought by the administrator of the estate of Rhonda Lynn Snow who sought surgery at an MIMC facility in 2013. At around 5:50 a.m. on December 11, 2013, a nurse allegedly administered a dose of Dilaudid to Rhonda; thereafter, at 6:40 a.m. Rhonda was found "non-responsive" in her room and the staff at the medical center were unable to resuscitate her. Rhonda remained on life support until her death on January 3, 2014. The Alabama Supreme Court determined MIMC demonstrated the trial court exceeded its discretion in requiring MIMC to respond to the discovery requests at issue, and accordingly, issued writs in both cases. View "Ex parte Mobile Infirmary Association d/b/a Mobile Infirmary Medical Center." on Justia Law

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Amy Langley Hamilton appealed a judgment entered in favor of Warren Scott, M.D., and the Isbell Medical Group, P.C. ("IMG"), following a jury trial on Hamilton's claim alleging the wrongful death of her stillborn son Tristian. In the first appeal, Hamilton v. Scott, 97 So. 3d 728 (Ala. 2012) ("Hamilton I"), the Alabama Supreme Court reversed in part a summary judgment entered against Hamilton because it concluded that Hamilton was entitled to pursue a wrongful-death claim regarding her unborn son even though the child was not viable at the time of his death. It was undisputed that the trial court's charges to the jury did not include the "better-position" principle. "That legal principle goes to the heart of Hamilton's theory of the case, i.e., that Dr. Scott's failure to refer Hamilton to a perinatologist during Hamilton's February 25, 2005, visit prevented timely treatment that, according to Dr. Bruner's testimony, would have saved Tristian's life." Consequently, the Supreme Court held the trial court's refusal to give such instructions constituted reversible error. View "Hamilton v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Amy Langley Hamilton appealed a judgment entered in favor of Warren Scott, M.D., and the Isbell Medical Group, P.C. ("IMG"), following a jury trial on Hamilton's claim alleging the wrongful death of her stillborn son Tristian. In the first appeal, Hamilton v. Scott, 97 So. 3d 728 (Ala. 2012) ("Hamilton I"), the Alabama Supreme Court reversed in part a summary judgment entered against Hamilton because it concluded that Hamilton was entitled to pursue a wrongful-death claim regarding her unborn son even though the child was not viable at the time of his death. It was undisputed that the trial court's charges to the jury did not include the "better-position" principle. "That legal principle goes to the heart of Hamilton's theory of the case, i.e., that Dr. Scott's failure to refer Hamilton to a perinatologist during Hamilton's February 25, 2005, visit prevented timely treatment that, according to Dr. Bruner's testimony, would have saved Tristian's life." Consequently, the Supreme Court held the trial court's refusal to give such instructions constituted reversible error. View "Hamilton v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Pharmacist Joseph McNamara, Jr. appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Benchmark Insurance Company ("Benchmark") in Benchmark's indemnity action against McNamara. Benchmark commenced the indemnity action in an effort to recover funds expended to settle a medical-malpractice action brought against Southern Medical, Inc., Benchmark's insured and McNamara's employer. The medical-malpractice action was brought against Southern Medical by Ricky Avant and Kim Avant and was based, at least in part, on the alleged tortious acts and omissions of McNamara. Because the act complained of occurred in January 2010 and Benchmark sued McNamara in February 2014, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Benchmark's indemnity action was time-barred under section 6-5-482, Ala. Code 1975. Thus, the trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Benchmark and in denying McNamara's motion for a summary judgment. View "McNamara v. Benchmark Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Dr. Eyston Hunte and his medical practice petitioned for mandamus relief. A former patient, Lisa Johnson, filed suit against Hunte, alleging Hunte sexually abused her during a health examination. Johnson served discovery requests on Hunte and his practice, which included a request to produce "each and every claim or complaint that has been made against [Hunte] by a patient for assault or inappropriate touching." Hunte objected to this request on the ground that this information was protected from discovery. Johnson filed a motion to compel Hunte to produce the requested documents. Hunte and EAH, in turn, filed a motion for a protective order. The trial court denied Hunte's motion for a protective order and ordered Hunte to respond to the discovery requests within 21 days. It was evident to the Alabama Supreme Court that a the 2001 complaint submitted to the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners by former patient and provided to Hunte as a part of the proceedings before the Board was the type of document declared privileged and confidential under section 34-24-60, Ala Code 1975. Furthermore, the Court noted that Johnson had not filed an answer and had not presented any facts or argument to the Supreme Court indicating that the 2001 complaint was not privileged or that it was otherwise subject to discovery. Thus, the Court concluded that Hunte has shown a clear right to an order protecting the 2001 complaint in Hunte and EAH's possession from discovery. The Court granted Hunte’s petition and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Dr. Eyston Hunte" on Justia Law

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Betty Collins appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants Ricardo Herring, D.C., and Herring Chiropractic Center, LLC. Collins sought damages for alleged medical malpractice with respect to treatment of knee, shoulder and back pain. Collins's knee was treated with a cold pack. The evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to Collins, indicated that the cold pack had been in the refrigerator for seven days, that it had not been thawed when Collins arrived for her appointment, and that it was hard on the day of her treatment in contrast to her treatment on other visits. Collins felt heat when the cold pack was removed from her knee. Collins developed blisters on her knee following the treatment and later scarring. In their summary-judgment motion, defendants argued that Collins had not produced any evidence demonstrating that Dr. Herring's treatment fell below the applicable standard of care. The defendants argued that Collins failed to present testimony from a similarly situated expert witness because Collins had not designated an expert witness as required under the Alabama Medical Liability Act to testify that Dr. Herring breached his duty of care in treating Collins.The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. "In the instant case, the procuring and application of the cold pack was within the exclusive control of the defendants, and no evidence was presented indicating that Collins contributed to her injuries. Blistering and subsequent scarring does not ordinarily occur following the application of a cold pack, absent negligence. The causative relationship between Collins's injury and the defendants' acts are such that it can be readily understood, to the extent that a layperson can reliably determine the issue of causation without independent expert testimony to assist in that determination." View "Collins v. Herring Chiropractic Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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Melissa Bain, in her capacity as the personal representative of the estate of her deceased husband Christopher Heath ("Heath"), appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Colbert County Northwest Alabama Health Care Authority d/b/a Helen Keller Hospital ("HKH"). Dr. Preston Wigfall was the emergency-room physician working at the hospital on the night Heath was taken to the emergency room. Dr. Wigfall ordered certain tests to be run, but he was unable to determine from the results of those tests the cause of Heath's symptoms. Heath was discharged approximately six hours after his arrival with an "unspecified" diagnosis with instructions to follow up with his primary-care physician. Approximately 20 days after his visit to the emergency room at the hospital, Heath died when a 45-millimeter ascending aortic aneurysm dissected. Bain, in her capacity as the personal representative of Heath's estate, filed a medical-malpractice action against HKH and several other defendants, arguing that that the emergency-department nurses at the hospital and Dr. Wigfall breached the applicable standards of care when they treated Heath; that Dr. Wigfall, at all relevant times, was acting within the line and scope of his duties and employment as an actual or apparent agent or employee of HKH; and that HKH was vicariously liable for the actions of its nurses and Dr. Wigfall. After review, the Supreme Court concluded Bain failed to demonstrate that the trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of HKH as to all of Bain's claims and affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "Bain v. Colbert County Northwest Alabama Health Care Authority" on Justia Law

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Kimberly Stinnett appealed the dismissal of her claim against Karla Kennedy, M.D., alleging the wrongful death of her unborn previable child. Based on its previous holdings, the Alabama Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in dismissing Stinnett's claim alleging wrongful death based on the death of her previable unborn child. The Court found the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the doctor on lack-of-proof-of-causation grounds. Furthermore, the Court found no basis to affirm summary judgment based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel. Accordingly, the trial court was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Stinnett v. Kennedy" on Justia Law

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Genesis Pittman, D.M.D., P.C. ("Pittman, P.C."), petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order setting aside a prior summary judgment entered in favor of Pittman, P.C. In August 2014, respondent Debra Blackmon filed a pro se action against Pittman, P.C., alleging negligence and dental malpractice. Blackmon further alleged that she suffered an allergic reaction necessitating emergency medical treatment as well as a related fall resulting in physical injury after treatment from Pittman. Blackmon apparently failed, in accordance with the trial court's scheduling order, to timely disclose the identity of an expert witness she had retained. After the expiration of the disclosure deadline, Pittman, P.C., filed a motion requesting a summary judgment in its favor on the primary ground that, based on the above-described failure to identify an expert, Blackmon could not prove her case. Blackmon, who had, by that time, retained legal counsel, filed a response in opposition that included her own affidavit testimony and medical records. After a hearing, the trial court, entered a summary judgment in favor of Pittman, P.C., as to all counts against it. Blackmon filed a postjudgment motion to alter, amend, or vacate the summary judgment in favor of Pittman, P.C. The trial court scheduled Blackmon's motion for, and ultimately conducted a hearing in May 2016. According to Pittman, P.C., however, by the time of the hearing, Blackmon's motion had been denied by operation of law in April 2016. On May 6, 2016 –- 110 days after the filing of Blackmon's postjudgment motion –- the trial court entered an order purporting to grant Blackmon's postjudgment motion. In response, Pittman, P.C., applied for mandamus relief, contending, in part, that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant Blackmon's motion. The Supreme Court concluded that Pittman, P.C. demonstrated a clear legal right to the requested relief and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Genesis Pittman, D.M.D., P.C., et al." on Justia Law

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ENT Associates of Alabama, P.A., A. Craig Chapman, M.D., and Baptist Ventures, Inc., d/b/a Montgomery Surgical Center, LLP ("MSC"), separately appealed a circuit court's interlocutory order denying their motions for a summary judgment. In 2011, Lauryn Hoke received medical care from Dr. Chapman, ENT Associates, and MSC (collectively, "the defendants"). On April 10, 2013, one day shy of two years after she was provided medical care by the defendants, Hoke filed a medical-malpractice claim against the defendants, complaining that the defendants deviated from the acceptable standard of medical care when, despite being aware of the fact that she was allergic to latex, they failed to provide a latex-free environment during both her surgery and her recovery and that, as a result, she suffered a severe allergic reaction that caused serious injuries. The complaint was signed by John Loeschen as "counsel for plaintiff" with an asterisk next to Loeschen's signature, noting below his address (which was Roanoke, Virginia) "motion pro hac vice to follow." The complaint included a certificate of service, signed by Loeschen, but did not include the name or signature of an attorney licensed to practice law in Alabama. It was undisputed that the complaint was filed electronically by an attorney licensed to practice law in Alabama, Benjamin Pool. The complaint did not include the addresses of the defendants or any instructions to the circuit clerk for service of process. On June 4, 2013, approximately 55 days after Hoke's complaint was filed, Loeschen filed a verified application for admission to practice under Rule VII of the Rules Governing Admission to the Alabama State Bar. On June 28, 2013, Dr. Chapman and ENT Associates filed a motion to strike the complaint and a motion to dismiss. On July 10, 2013, MSC also filed a motion to dismiss. The defendants argued that the complaint was signed and filed by an out-of-state attorney who had not been admitted to appear pro hac vice as an attorney in Alabama and that, under Rule VII, the complaint was a nullity and due to be stricken. Furthermore, they argued that because the two-year statute of limitations that applied to Hoke's medical-malpractice action had expired, the case should have been dismissed in its entirety with prejudice. The circuit court denied defendants' motions. Finding that Hoke's complaint was not "commenced" for statute-of-limitations purposes before the applicable statute of limitations expired, the Supreme Court found that the underlying action here was time-barred. The circuit court's judgment denying defendants' motions for summary judgment was reversed, and this case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Baptist Ventures, Inc. v. Hoke" on Justia Law