Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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Doretha Thompson appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendants, Baptist Memorial Hospital DeSoto, Inc. (BMH-D), and James Fortune, M.D., in a medical malpractice case. A surgical sponge inadvertently was left inside Thompson’s abdomen during an operation performed by Dr. Fortune to remove Thompson’s gallbladder in 2004. The sponge was not discovered until 2011, when Thompson presented to the emergency room in complaining of stomach pains. Dr. Fortune admitted at trial that the sponge inadvertently had been left in Thompson’s abdomen during the 2004 operation. And he admitted the sponge was the cause of Thompson’s 2011 injury and complications. But Dr. Fortune claimed he did not deviate from the applicable standard of care, which he contended did not require him to count or keep track of the number of surgical sponges used in the operation, but which allowed him to rely on an accurate sponge count conducted by a nurse and scrub technician assisting in the 2004 procedure, both of whom were employed by BMH-D. All parties provided expert testimony in support of their respective cases. The only issue the Mississippi Supreme Court found having merit was Thompson’s claim the jury was not properly instructed on the law in this case. That instructional error constituted reversible error, and Thompson was entitled to a new trial against both defendants. View "Thompson v. Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto, Inc." on Justia Law

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This interlocutory appeal arose from a circuit court’s denial of a motion to transfer venue. Under Mississippi law, venue is determined at the time the lawsuit originally is filed. The resolution of this appeal hinged on the application of this principle to an issue of first impression for the Mississippi Supreme Court: does an amended complaint, which names a new party to the suit, relate back to the time of filing of the original complaint for the purposes of determining venue? The Court found it did not. The suit here was filed in Hinds County, naming only Forrest County defendants, and the amended complaint did not relate back to the time of filing for the purposes of determining venue. The circuit court abused its discretion in denying the motion to transfer venue. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court and remanded the case to be transferred to the Circuit Court Forrest County. View "Forrest General Hospital v. Upton" on Justia Law

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Teresa Vermilyea and her daughter, Julie Vermilyea Kasby, filed suit against Singing River Health System, Jennifer Thomas-Taylor, M.D.; Alva Britt, R.N.; Benjamin Hudson, M.D.; and Emergency Room Group, Ltd., pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act for the wrongful death of Randy Vermilyea, the husband of Teresa Vermilyea and father of Julie Vermilyea Kasby (collectively, “Vermilyea”). Vermilyea alleged that Randy had been admitted to the Singing River Hospital following a suicide attempt and that the defendants had breached the standard of care by failing to assess his mental condition properly and prematurely discharging him, proximately causing his suicide minutes after his discharge. Julie Vermilyea Kasby, who had witnessed her father’s suicide, asserted a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted appellants' interlocutory appeal. Finding that Vermilyea did state viable legal claims based upon Randy Vermilyea’s death, the Supreme Court affirmed and remanded the case to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Singing River Health System v. Vermilyea" on Justia Law

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Jackson HMA moved for summary judgment on Evelyn Harris’s medical negligence claims, arguing that Harris failed to present expert medical testimony in support thereof. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment. Because Harris failed to present sworn expert medical testimony to support her claims, no genuine issue of material fact exists. This Court reverses the trial court’s judgment and renders judgment in favor of Jackson HMA. View "Jackson HMA, LLC v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Christopher Pollan filed a medical negligence action against Dr. Andrew Wartak, North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point; Angie Turnage, LPN; Chase Larmour, RN; and Ashley Thomas, LPN, claiming that the defendants’ medical negligence caused the death of his mother, Shirley Pollan. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the defendants, finding that Pollan’s survival claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Pollan v. Wartak" on Justia Law

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In an effort to increase chances of conception, Lacy Dodd underwent surgery to remove ovarian cysts and, potentially, one fallopian tube. During the surgery, Lacy’s physician, Dr. Randall Hines, discovered that both of Lacy’s ovaries appeared abnormal to the extent that they seemed cancerous. Dr. Hines consulted, intraoperatively, with his colleague, Dr. Paul Seago. Dr. Seago concluded that both ovaries lacked any appreciable amount of normal tissue and were highly suspicious for malignancy; he recommended that it was in Lacy’s best interest to remove both ovaries. Dr. Hines agreed and removed both ovaries. A biopsy later revealed that Lacy’s ovaries were not cancerous. Lacy and her husband, Charles Dodd, filed a pro se complaint against Dr. Hines, Dr. Seago, and Mississippi Reproductive Medicine, PLLC, claiming that her ovaries were removed without consent. Lacy also alleged defendants were negligent in failing to obtain informed consent from the patient and/or her family to proceed with the procedure, failing to test tissues and analyze the results; and misdiagnosing Lacy’s condition as malignant. The trial court found that Lacy had consented to the removal of her ovaries based on a consent form executed by Lacy prior to the surgery and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Despite the sole issue of consent before the trial court, it entered a final judgment with respect to all of Lacy’s claims alleged in her complaint. On appeal, the Court of Appeals determined that Lacy’s claim was “battery-based” and held that Lacy did not give express consent for the removal of her ovaries and the consent form did not summarily provide consent to remove her ovaries. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the result reached by the Court of Appeals, holding that there is a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment as to whether Lacy consented to the removal of her ovaries in accordance with the Court’s decisions in Cole v. Wiggins, 487 So. 2d 203 (Miss. 1986), and Fox v. Smith, 594 So. 2d 596 (Miss. 1992). The trial court’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings for reasons different than those of the Court of Appeals. View "Dodd v. Hines" on Justia Law

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The issue this medical-malpractice suit presented for the Supreme Court's review of Dr. Fawaz Abdraddo’s and Hinds Behavioral Health Services’ interlocutory appeal was whether the trial court erred in denying defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Audray Johnson, acting pro se, filed suit against the defendants claiming he suffered permanent damage to his kidneys due to lithium treatment he received while under the psychiatric care of Dr. Abdraddo, who was working under contract for Hinds Behavioral Health Services. Finding that Plaintiff failed to support his medical-malpractice claims with expert testimony on whether the defendants breached any applicable standard of care owed to Johnson, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment and rendered judgment in favor of defendants. View "Abdrabbo v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court’s review centered on the interplay between the wrongful-death statute and the minors savings clause. In 1999, the Court held “[t]here is no question now that the savings clause, set out in [Section] 15-1-59 of the Mississippi Code, applies to a wrongful death action” brought under Section 11-7-13 of the Mississippi Code. Three years later, the Court found reason not to apply the minors savings clause to the wrongful-death action filed in “Curry v. Turner,” (832 So. 2d 508 (Miss. 2002)). Instead, the Court found the two statutes to be “at irreconcilable odds with one another where there exists a person qualified under the wrongful death statute to bring suit.” In the present wrongful-death lawsuit, the defendants relied on “Curry” to claim the action was time-barred. They argued the minor savings clause did not apply because the minor beneficiaries had a maternal aunt who “qualified under the statute to bring suit.” Notwithstanding that, the Supreme Court found a material distinction between “Curry” and this case: in “Curry,” not only was the minor beneficiaries’ mother qualified to bring suit, but she also in fact filed a wrongful-death action. Thus, under Section 11-7-13’s “one-suit” requirement, the Supreme Court found the minor beneficiaries could not rely on the application of the minor savings clause to file what essentially would be a second wrongful-death action. But here, by contrast, the minor beneficiaries’ aunt never filed a wrongful-death action, though Section 11-7-13 authorized her to do so as the deceased’s sister. Instead, the first and only suit filed was by the deceased’s children. In this case, the Court held that only when someone who is qualified to bring a wrongful-death suit actually files a wrongful-death suit on the minor beneficiaries’ behalf will the minor savings clause not apply, because, once the suit is filed, the running of the statute of limitations is immaterial. The minor savings statute clearly applied in this case; the deceased’s oldest child had two years from when she reached the age of majority to file a wrongful-death suit based on medical negligence. Because she timely filed within this two-year period, the Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Pioneer Community Hospital of Newton v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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On her father’s behalf, Debra Tarvin signed a nursing home Admission Agreement which contained an arbitration provision. After her father Caldwell Tarvin died, she brought a wrongful-death suit against the nursing home, CLC of Jackson, LLC d/b/a Pleasant Hills Community Living Center (“Pleasant Hills”). Caldwell was admitted to Pleasant Hills in August 2007, and Debra signed an Admission Agreement as Caldwell’s “Responsible Party.” Janet Terrell and Annette Tarvin also signed the Agreement as “Family Members” but Caldwell himself did not sign the Agreement. Pleasant Hills moved to dismiss the proceedings and to compel arbitration. Debra responded and argued that Pleasant Hills had waived its right to compel arbitration by participating in the litigation. Debra also argued that Pleasant Hills had “completely ignore[d] the issue of whether or not Mr. Tarvin’s family members had the legal authority to bind him to an arbitration agreement[.]” Specifically, Debra argued that there was “no legal authority, such as a power of attorney or conservatorship” by which she could bind her father to the arbitration agreement, nor could she bind him under the Uniform Healthcare Decisions Act, because “the record is devoid of any evidence” that the physicians relied upon by Pleasant Hills were Caldwell’s primary physicians. The trial court granted Pleasant Hills' motion, and Debra appealed. The relevant statutes at play here were codified as the “Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act,” Mississippi Code Section 41-41-201 to 41-41-229 (the “Act”). The Supreme Court's review of this case found that Act required determination by a primary physician that an individual lacks capacity before a “surrogate” properly can make a healthcare decision for that individual. The record here did not support a finding that a certain "Dr. Thomas" was Caldwell’s primary physician. The Court therefore reversed the trial court’s order compelling arbitration and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Tarvin v. CLC of Jackson, LLC d/b/a Pleasant Hills Community Living Center" on Justia Law

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Tomeka Handy filed a complaint alleging medical negligence against Madison County Nursing Home and Madison County. Handy filed her complaint for wrongful death on October 4, 2012, individually and in her capacity as the administratrix of the estate of her mother, Willie Handy, who was a resident of the nursing home from August 25, 2008, through the date of her death on April 12, 2011. The suit was filed on behalf of all the decedent’s wrongful death beneficiaries. After the county was dismissed, the nursing home filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that it was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law because Handy had not designated an expert witness. Before the summary judgment hearing, Handy filed designations of two expert witnesses. The Circuit Court of Madison County granted the motion for summary judgment because Handy had failed to produce sworn expert testimony in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Handy filed a motion for reconsideration along with expert witness affidavits, but the circuit court denied the motion for reconsideration. Handy appealed, arguing that the circuit court dismissed her case as a sanction for a discovery violation, and the harsh sanction of dismissal amounted to an abuse of discretion. Because the record established that Handy failed to meet her burden of production on summary judgment, and the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Handy’s motion for reconsideration, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Handy v. Madison County Nursing Home" on Justia Law