Anderson v. Eichner, SERVICES--OKLAHOMA

CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma
Writing for the CourtOPALA; HODGES, C.J., and WATT; HARGRAVE; WATT, Justice, with whom HODGES
Parties98 Ed. Law Rep. 453, 1994 OK 136 Leon ANDERSON, individually and as special administratrix and personal representative of the Estate of Henry Lee Richard, Deceased, Josephine Goodbear, individually and as mother and next friend of Henry Richard, Jr., a minor, Stacy Richard, a minor and Brandon Richard, a minor, Michael Richard and Steven L. Richard, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Edward EICHNER, Randy Morgan, a/k/a R.R. Morgan, Lee Serbousek, Edward Kuekes, Ronald Greenfield, John P. Kuebler, Oklahoma Memorial Hospital and the State of Oklahoma Teaching Hospitals, Defendants-Appellees. Uttara Karnik BHAT, a totally incapacitated adult, and Chandrashekar A. Bhat, as Husband and Guardian of the person and property of Uttara Karnik Bhat, a totally incapacitated adult; and Martand R. Karnik and Mrs. Shashikala Martand Karnik, Parents of Uttara Karnik Bhat, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. STATE of Oklahoma ex rel. DEPARTMENT OF HUMANMEMORIAL HOSPITAL and ex rel. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma; Ralph Lazzara, M.D.; John Harvey, M.D.; Eliot Schechter, M.D.; John Randolph, M.D.; and Nick Twidale, M.D., individually; and the College of Medicine Private Practice Plan, a Joint Venture Medical Partnership, a/k/a the University of Medicine Professional Practice Plan, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date06 December 1994
Docket NumberSERVICES--OKLAHOMA,Nos. 79517,79507

Page 1329

890 P.2d 1329
98 Ed. Law Rep. 453, 1994 OK 136
Leon ANDERSON, individually and as special administratrix
and personal representative of the Estate of Henry Lee
Richard, Deceased, Josephine Goodbear, individually and as
mother and next friend of Henry Richard, Jr., a minor, Stacy
Richard, a minor and Brandon Richard, a minor, Michael
Richard and Steven L. Richard, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Edward EICHNER, Randy Morgan, a/k/a R.R. Morgan, Lee
Serbousek, Edward Kuekes, Ronald Greenfield, John P.
Kuebler, Oklahoma Memorial Hospital and the State of
Oklahoma Teaching Hospitals, Defendants-Appellees.
Uttara Karnik BHAT, a totally incapacitated adult, and
Chandrashekar A. Bhat, as Husband and Guardian of the person
and property of Uttara Karnik Bhat, a totally incapacitated
adult; and Martand R. Karnik and Mrs. Shashikala Martand
Karnik, Parents of Uttara Karnik Bhat, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
STATE of Oklahoma ex rel. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN
SERVICES--OKLAHOMA MEMORIAL HOSPITAL and ex rel. Board of
Regents of the University of Oklahoma; Ralph Lazzara, M.D.;
John Harvey, M.D.; Eliot Schechter, M.D.; John Randolph,
M.D.; and Nick Twidale, M.D., individually; and the
College of Medicine Private Practice Plan, a Joint Venture
Medical Partnership, a/k/a the University of Medicine
Professional Practice Plan, Defendants-Appellees.
Nos. 79517, 79507.
Supreme Court of Oklahoma.
Dec. 6, 1994.

Page 1332

On appeal from the District Court, Oklahoma County; Virgil C. Black, Judge, in No. 79,507 and Niles L. Jackson, Judge, in No. 79,517.

The district court gave summary judgment to defendant faculty physicians, resident physicians and interns in two separate medical malpractice actions for harm sustained by patients at Oklahoma Memorial Hospital (a state-owned facility). Summary judgment was rested on the defendants' immunity conferred by the Governmental Tort Claims Act. The plaintiffs brought separate appeals which stand consolidated for disposition by a single opinion.

THE TRIAL COURT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENTS IN NO. 79,507 AND NO. 79,517 ARE REVERSED AND THE CAUSES REMANDED FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH THIS PRONOUNCEMENT.

Stan Twardy, Oklahoma City, and Ed Abel, Donald E. Schroeder, and Lynn B. Mares, Abel, Musser, Sokolosky & Assoc., Oklahoma City, for appellants in No. 79507.

John Wiggins and Cynthia L. Sparling, Short, Barnes, Wiggins, Margo & Adler, Oklahoma City, for appellees in No. 79507.

Richard E. Hornbeek, Abowitz & Welch and Hornbeek, Krahl & Vitali, Oklahoma City, for appellants in No. 79517.

Kevin Driskill, Oklahoma City, for appellee Eichner in No. 79517.

J. Roger Hurt, Inona J. Harness, Pierce, Couch, Hendrickson, Johnston & Baysinger and Haven Tobias, Pierce, Couch, Hendrickson, Baysinger & Green, Oklahoma City, for appellees Morgan and Serbousek in No. 79517.

Steven R. Hickman, Frasier & Frasier, Tulsa and Howard K. Berry, Jr., Oklahoma City, for amicus curiae in Nos. 79517 and 79507, Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Ass'n.

Page 1333

Ed Kelsay, Oklahoma City, for amicus curiae in Nos. 79517 and 79507, Oklahoma State Medical Ass'n.

OPALA, Justice.

The first-impression issue dispositive of these two appeals is whether the Governmental Tort Claims Act1 shields faculty physicians, resident physicians and interns--who are either teaching or participating in an educational program at Oklahoma Memorial Hospital--from tort liability in medical malpractice suits brought against them in their status as state employees. We answer in the negative. We conclude today that (a) the Governmental Tort Claims Act specifically takes out of the state immunity purview those acts of physician educators and students which fall under the rubric of "medical practice"; (b) for all such acts the physician teachers and students are individually liable according to the principles of general tort law, except that the total individual liability of resident physicians and interns stands limited to $100,000.00; and (c) the district court's summary judgments for the defendant physicians must be reversed with the causes remanded in both actions.

I

THE ANATOMY OF LITIGATION

A.

Cause No. 79,517--The Anderson Claim

The Anderson claim arose when Henry Richard [Richard] died on November 12, 1986 from complications of a surgically attempted central line placement2 procedure performed at Oklahoma Memorial Hospital [OMH]. During this procedure, Richard's lung and subclavian vessel sustained multiple punctures which resulted in intrapulmonary and pleural hemorrhage.

When in the course of rendering medical treatment to Richard, Dr. Randy Morgan, a resident intern, and Dr. Lee Serbousek, a resident physician, were both participating in a graduate medical education program at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC). Dr. Edward Eichner, a professor of medicine and Chief of the Hematology Section, Department of Medicine at OUHSC, was a faculty physician who supervised and instructed Drs. Morgan and Serbousek regarding Richard's treatment. All three of these defendants, either as teacher or student in the OUHSC's educational program, were involved in making treatment decisions and administering medical care to Richard.

Richard's next of kin and the representative of his estate brought a wrongful death action for medical malpractice against defendants Eichner, Serbousek and Morgan. The plaintiffs also sued OMH and the State of Oklahoma Teaching Hospitals.3 The trial court gave summary judgment to the three physicians.4 Their quests for summary relief stood rested on immunity from tort liability conferred by the Governmental Tort Claims

Page 1334

Act5 because, when the medical services in question were rendered, they were either engaged in teaching duties or participating at OUHSC as students in an educational program.6

B.

Cause No. 79,507--The Bhat Claim

The Bhat claim arose on November 27, 1989 when Uttara Karnik Bhat [Bhat] underwent an elective valvuloplasty to correct a narrowing of her heart's mitral valve in the OMH heart catheterization laboratory. Recommended by Dr. Ralph Lazzara, this procedure was performed by Drs. John Harvey and Eliot Schechter, all faculty physicians at OUHSC. Drs. Jatin Amin and Nicholas Twidale, resident physicians, also participated in its performance. Dr. Sunil Lulla, another resident physician, was present and observed Bhat's heart catheterization.

During the procedure Bhat's heart was perforated, causing pericardial bleeding which interfered with her heart functions. Dr. John Randolph, an assistant professor of thoracic surgery, performed emergency surgery to correct the perforation while two resident physicians observed the operation. Because of her diminished heart functions, Bhat's brain became oxygen-deprived for a period of time. She remained in a comatose vegetative condition until her death on December 19, 1992.7

Bhat's next of kin brought a medical malpractice action against the individual physicians and the State of Oklahoma Department of Human Services [DHS], OMH and the College of Medicine Private Practice Plan [PPP].8 The defendant physicians sought summary judgment, arguing that they were immune from liability for torts committed while engaged in teaching duties or while participating in a graduate medical education program at OUHSC.9 The trial court gave summary judgment to the physicians, ruling that their status (as state employees acting within the scope of their employment) rendered them immune from civil liability.10

Page 1335

C.

The Nature of the Appeals

The plaintiffs originally sought corrective relief in this court by a petition for certiorari to review a certified interlocutory order. By this court's earlier direction the cases came to be recast as appeals which are authorized by 12 O.S.1991 § 100611 for appellate review in advance of final adjudication of all multiple claims or multiple parties. The district court's certified orders12 were deemed the functional equivalent of judicial statements, required by § 1006, (a) that "no just reason" exists for delaying an immediate appeal and (b) that judgments for the physicians may be entered at once. The appeals stand consolidated for disposition by a single opinion. We now take cognizance of the cases and reverse the summary judgments in both actions.

II

THE GOVERNMENTAL TORT CLAIMS ACT DOES NOT EXTEND IMMUNITY TO THE DEFENDANT PHYSICIANS FOR TORTS OCCURRING WHILE THEY WERE PRACTISING MEDICINE

The individual physicians' immunity from liability turns on our construction of the Governmental Tort Claims Act.13 The common-law doctrine of sovereign immunity was

Page 1336

abrogated by our pronouncement in Vanderpool.14 There we held that in the absence of a statute conferring partial or total immunity, the state, its political subdivisions, and employees acting within the scope of their employment would stand liable in tort in the same manner as a private individual or corporation.15 The legislature responded to Vanderpool's invitation to codify Oklahoma's sovereign immunity policies by enacting the 1984 Governmental Tort Claims Act. The latter redefined the parameters of governmental tort liability.16 The act provides, in § 152.1(B), that governmental immunity of the state and its political subdivisions is waived "only to the extent and in the manner provided in " the act.17 Tracking Vanderpool's rationale, § 153 extends governmental accountability to all torts for which a private person or entity would be liable, subject only to the act's specific "limitations and exceptions."18

State employees acting within the scope of their employment are relieved by § 152.1(A) of private liability for tortious conduct.19 This immunity grant allows public employees to perform their duties and make decisions on behalf of the state free from fear of suit.20 In the task of determining whether the defendant physicians are immune from liability for the acts in suit because of their employment status with the state,...

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44 practice notes
  • Smith v. City of Stillwater & the Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs for Payne Cnty., No. 111971.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • May 20, 2014
    ...its political subdivisions, but only to the extent and in the manner provided in the act. Title 51 O.S. § 152.1(B); Anderson v. Eichner, 1994 OK 136, ¶ 9, 890 P.2d 1329. Title 51 O.S. § 153 extends governmental accountability to all torts for which a private person or entity would be liable......
  • Andrew v. Depani-Sparkes, Case Number: 114082
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • May 16, 2017
    ...v. Union Baptist Ass'n, 2001 OK 63, 55 P.3d 1012 ; Lykins v. Saint Francis Hosp., Inc., 1995 OK 135, 917 P.2d 1 ; Anderson v. Eichner, 1994 OK 136, 890 P.2d 1329.15 Okla. City Urban Renewal Auth., 2005 OK 2, ¶17, 110 P.3d at 560.16 Section 994's expansive language authorizes a district cour......
  • Compsource Mut. Ins. Co. v. State, NO. 116,337
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • June 26, 2018
    ...Court and T. Sedgwick, The Interpretation and Construction of Statutory and Constitutional Law, 98 (2d ed. 1874). 50. Anderson v. Eichner, 1994 OK 136, n. 25, 890 P.2d 1329, 1337-1338 (A fundamental proposition is that a statute should not be read in isolation from the context of the entire......
  • Jackson v. Oklahoma Memorial Hosp., No. 83924
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • October 17, 1995
    ...Payne v. Jones, 193 Okl. 609, 146 P.2d 113, 116 (1944); Special Indemnity Fund v. Reynolds, supra note 9, 188 P.2d at 842. 11 Okl., 890 P.2d 1329 12 The pertinent terms of 51 O.S.1991 § 152(5) (eff. Sept. 1, 1991), which were in force when the claim arose, provided: "5. 'Employee' means any......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
44 cases
  • Smith v. City of Stillwater & the Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs for Payne Cnty., No. 111971.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • May 20, 2014
    ...its political subdivisions, but only to the extent and in the manner provided in the act. Title 51 O.S. § 152.1(B); Anderson v. Eichner, 1994 OK 136, ¶ 9, 890 P.2d 1329. Title 51 O.S. § 153 extends governmental accountability to all torts for which a private person or entity would be liable......
  • Andrew v. Depani-Sparkes, Case Number: 114082
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • May 16, 2017
    ...v. Union Baptist Ass'n, 2001 OK 63, 55 P.3d 1012 ; Lykins v. Saint Francis Hosp., Inc., 1995 OK 135, 917 P.2d 1 ; Anderson v. Eichner, 1994 OK 136, 890 P.2d 1329.15 Okla. City Urban Renewal Auth., 2005 OK 2, ¶17, 110 P.3d at 560.16 Section 994's expansive language authorizes a district cour......
  • Compsource Mut. Ins. Co. v. State, NO. 116,337
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • June 26, 2018
    ...Court and T. Sedgwick, The Interpretation and Construction of Statutory and Constitutional Law, 98 (2d ed. 1874). 50. Anderson v. Eichner, 1994 OK 136, n. 25, 890 P.2d 1329, 1337-1338 (A fundamental proposition is that a statute should not be read in isolation from the context of the entire......
  • Jackson v. Oklahoma Memorial Hosp., No. 83924
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • October 17, 1995
    ...Payne v. Jones, 193 Okl. 609, 146 P.2d 113, 116 (1944); Special Indemnity Fund v. Reynolds, supra note 9, 188 P.2d at 842. 11 Okl., 890 P.2d 1329 12 The pertinent terms of 51 O.S.1991 § 152(5) (eff. Sept. 1, 1991), which were in force when the claim arose, provided: "5. 'Employee' means any......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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