Andrews v. Reynolds Memorial Hosp., Inc., No. 23858.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtMcHUGH, Justice
Citation201 W.Va. 624,499 S.E.2d 846
PartiesGina K. ANDREWS, Administratrix of the Estate of Justin Kyle Andrews, Gina K. Andrews, Individually, and Jeffrey Andrews, Individually, Plaintiffs Below, Appellants, v. REYNOLDS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, INC., a Corporation; and R.W. Spore, M.D., Defendants Below, Appellees.
Decision Date05 December 1997
Docket NumberNo. 23858.

499 S.E.2d 846
201 W.Va.
624

Gina K. ANDREWS, Administratrix of the Estate of Justin Kyle Andrews, Gina K. Andrews, Individually, and Jeffrey Andrews, Individually, Plaintiffs Below, Appellants,
v.
REYNOLDS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, INC., a Corporation; and R.W. Spore, M.D., Defendants Below, Appellees

No. 23858.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted September 9, 1997.

Decided December 5, 1997.


499 S.E.2d 848
Linda M. Bordas, James B. Stoneking, Bordas, Bordas & Jividen, Wheeling, for Appellants

James F. Companion, John Porco, Patrick S. Casey, Schrader, Byrd, Companion & Gurley, Wheeling, for Appellees.

499 S.E.2d 847
McHUGH, Justice

This action concerns allegations of medical malpractice and is before this Court upon an appeal from the final order of the Circuit Court of Marshall County, West Virginia, entered on August 26, 1995. The appellants are Gina K. Andrews and her husband, Jeffrey Andrews. The appellees are Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Inc., and R.W. Spore, an emergency room physician. According to the appellants, the appellees negligently failed to diagnose and treat Gina K. Andrews' preterm labor, which negligence resulted in the death of the appellants' infant son, Justin Kyle Andrews. In addition, the appellants alleged that Reynolds Memorial Hospital acted negligently in hiring Dr. Spore and in retaining him upon the hospital staff. As reflected in the final order, following the entry of judgment for the appellants in the amount of $2,762,017, upon a jury verdict, the circuit court granted the motion of the appellees for a new trial. The appellants contend that the granting of a new trial constituted an abuse of discretion.

This Court has before it the petition for appeal, all matters of record and the briefs and argument of counsel. The circuit court granted a new trial because it concluded: (1) that the jury engaged in speculation in including in its verdict an amount for lost future earnings of Justin Kyle Andrews; (2) that the circuit court should not have excluded

499 S.E.2d 849
the evidence of the appellees that Gina K. Andrews underwent a prior elective abortion, which evidence, according to the appellees, predisposed her to problems concerning her pregnancy with Justin Kyle Andrews; and (3) that the circuit court should have granted the appellees' motion to bifurcate, for separate trial, the issue of whether Reynolds Memorial Hospital acted negligently in hiring and in retaining Dr. Spore. Upon review, however, and for the reasons stated below, this Court is of the opinion that none of those grounds warranted the granting of a new trial. Consequently, we reverse the final order and remand this action to the circuit court for reinstatement of the $2,762,017 judgment

I

At 2:18 a.m. on July 6, 1990, Gina K. Andrews and her husband, Jeffrey, reported to the emergency room at Reynolds Memorial Hospital. At that time, Gina was approximately six months pregnant and complained of vomiting, diarrhea, vaginal discharge and abdominal pain. Dr. R.W. Spore, the physician on duty in the emergency room, examined Gina and spoke with her obstetrician, Dr. Richard A. Simon, by telephone.1 Concluding that Gina was suffering from vaginitis (an inflammation of the vagina), Dr. Spore prescribed an antibiotic and instructed Gina to follow up with Dr. Simon or return to the emergency room, if necessary. Gina was discharged from Reynolds Memorial Hospital at 4:35 a.m.

At home, Gina's symptoms continued with increasing pain, and, at approximately 6:45 a.m. on July 6, 1990, she and her husband returned to the emergency room. During this second appearance at the emergency room, Gina was not seen by Dr. Spore, whose shift ended at 7:00 a.m. Rather, Gina was taken to the obstetrics unit of the hospital for monitoring. As Gina indicated at trial, however, the baby began emerging before the arrival of a physician at her room. At 7:50 a.m., Justin Kyle Andrews was born, with Dr. John J. Templeton, the emergency room physician then on duty, arriving to complete the delivery process.2

As a result of complications, which included serious respiratory problems, Justin Kyle Andrews was transferred from Reynolds Memorial Hospital to West Virginia University Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia. Justin, however, died at West Virginia University Hospital on July 7, 1990. The Report of Death completed by the attending physician indicated "cardiorespiratory failure, secondary to prematurity."

In July 1992, the appellants instituted this action. As stated above, the complaint alleged that Reynolds Memorial Hospital and Dr. R.W. Spore negligently failed to diagnose and treat Gina K. Andrews' preterm labor and that such negligence resulted in the death of the appellants' infant son, Justin Kyle Andrews. In addition, the complaint alleged that Reynolds Memorial Hospital acted negligently in hiring Dr. Spore and in retaining him upon the hospital staff.

Following a number of pretrial proceedings and the completion of discovery, the

499 S.E.2d 850
action went to trial in August 1994. At the beginning of the trial, following the selection of the jury and prior to the commencement of opening statements, the appellees pursued, for the first time, the possibility of bifurcating the allegations of the negligent hiring and retention of Dr. Spore from the remaining issues at trial concerning the death of Justin Kyle Andrews. The circuit court denied the appellees' motion to bifurcate, however, as untimely.3

During the trial, Dr. John F. Burke, an economist called as a witness by the appellants, testified with respect to the lost future earnings of Justin Kyle Andrews. In particular, based upon statistical factors, including an average life expectancy, an average work-life expectancy and, in addition, the educational background of Justin's parents,4 Dr. Burke estimated Justin's lost future earnings with regard to three life scenarios, reduced to present value. As set forth by Dr. Burke, the lost future earnings were: (1) $1,607,268 to $1,795,397 based upon a four year college education; (2) $1,193,042 to $1,401,624 based upon a college education of one to three years; and (3) $875,342 to $1,041,000 based upon a high school education. The testimony of Dr. Burke was admitted to the jury over the objection of the appellees that the testimony was speculative.

Nevertheless, the evidence of the parties at trial primarily concerned the question of whether Dr. Spore's actions on July 6, 1990, deviated from the proper standard of care. The evidence of the appellants indicated that, based upon the symptoms presented by Gina K. Andrews that evening, and knowing that she was pregnant, Dr. Spore should have diagnosed preterm labor and (1) should have attempted to slow the labor process through medications, in order to increase Justin's chances of survival, or (2) should have transferred Gina from the emergency room to more specialized care. In that regard, the evidence of the appellants indicated that Gina had experienced an "uneventful" pregnancy up to the point of the preterm labor and that there was nothing to suggest any medical problems concerning the baby.5

On the other hand, the evidence of the appellees at trial indicated that, when Gina K. Andrews first arrived at the emergency room on July 6, 1990, she was suffering from chorioamnionitis (an infection in the lining of the uterus), which ultimately resulted in Gina's preterm labor and in the death of Justin Kyle Andrews. According to the evidence of the appellees, chorioamnionitis rendered the preterm labor and death unpreventable.6 In response, however, the appellants elicited testimony to the effect that Gina K. Andrews did not have chorioamnionitis.7

499 S.E.2d 851
Finally, with regard to the allegations of the negligent hiring and retention of Dr. Spore, the evidence of the appellants consisted of: (1) a 1989 agreed order between Dr. Spore and the Board of Medical Examiners of the State of Tennessee, placing Dr. Spore's license to practice medicine in that State upon probationary status, because Dr. Spore had written a large volume of prescriptions "not for a legitimate medical purpose and not in the course of professional practice," (2) testimony to the effect that Reynolds Memorial Hospital knew about the agreed order prior to hiring Dr. Spore but failed to investigate the circumstances thereof; and (3) testimony indicating that various complaints had been made to Reynolds Memorial Hospital that Dr. Spore was "unresponsive" to the needs of patients and staff members of that hospital.8 In response, the appellees submitted evidence to the effect that Dr. Spore had complied with all of the terms of the Tennessee order and had not since engaged in the unwarranted writing of prescriptions. Furthermore, the appellees stated that Dr. Spore had treated thousands of patients at Reynolds Memorial Hospital without complaints having been made against him.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict for the appellants in the amount of $2,762,017. As the verdict form indicates, that amount consisted of: (1) $12,017 for medical and funeral expenses; (2) $1,750,000 for lost future earnings of Justin Kyle Andrews; and (3) $1,000,000 for sorrow and loss of companionship. The jury found Dr. Spore 95% negligent and Reynolds Memorial Hospital 5% negligent. The verdict was reduced to judgment by order entered on August 19, 1994.

As reflected in the final order of August 26, 1995, however, the circuit court granted the appellees' motion for a new trial. As stated above, the circuit court granted the motion because it concluded: (1) that the jury engaged in speculation in including in its verdict an amount for lost future earnings; (2) that the circuit court should not have excluded the evidence of the appellees that Gina K. Andrews underwent a prior elective abortion, see n. 6, supra; and (3) that the circuit court should have granted the appellees' motion...

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48 practice notes
  • State v. Swims, No. 30099.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 7, 2002
    ...Sanders v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 159 W.Va. 621, 225 S.E.2d 218 (1976)." Syllabus point 1, Andrews v. Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Inc., 201 W.Va. 624, 499 S.E.2d 846 (1997). Syl. pt. 1, Lively v. Rufus, 207 W.Va. 436, 533 S.E.2d 662 (2000). Having set forth the general guidelines for our co......
  • State v. Blevins, No. 11–1014.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 20, 2013
    ...Corp., 159 W.Va. 621, 225 S.E.2d 218 (1976).’ Syllabus point 1, [744 S.E.2d 251]Andrews v. Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Inc., 201 W.Va. 624, 499 S.E.2d 846 (1997).” Syl. Pt. 1, Lively v. Rufus, 207 W.Va. 436, 533 S.E.2d 662 (2000). 3. “Widespread publicity, of itself, does not require change......
  • Foster v. Sakhai, No. 29339.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 12, 2001
    ...Stillwell v. The City of Wheeling, 210 W. Va. 599, 604, 558 S.E.2d 598, 603 (2001); Syl. pt. 1, Andrews v. Reynolds Mem'l Hosp., Inc., 201 W.Va. 624, 499 S.E.2d 846 (1997). Although the standard when considering a court's granting of a new trial is abuse of discretion, we have cautioned tha......
  • State Va. v. White, No. 35529.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • February 10, 2011
    ...Sanders v. Georgia–Pacific Corp., 159 W.Va. 621, 225 S.E.2d 218 (1976).’ Syllabus point 1, Andrews v. Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Inc., 201 W.Va. 624, 499 S.E.2d 846 (1997).” Syllabus point 1, Lively v. Rufus, 207 W.Va. 436, 533 S.E.2d 662 (2000). 2. “In reviewing challenges to findings and......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
48 cases
  • State v. Swims, No. 30099.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 7, 2002
    ...Sanders v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 159 W.Va. 621, 225 S.E.2d 218 (1976)." Syllabus point 1, Andrews v. Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Inc., 201 W.Va. 624, 499 S.E.2d 846 (1997). Syl. pt. 1, Lively v. Rufus, 207 W.Va. 436, 533 S.E.2d 662 (2000). Having set forth the general guidelines for our co......
  • State v. Blevins, No. 11–1014.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 20, 2013
    ...Corp., 159 W.Va. 621, 225 S.E.2d 218 (1976).’ Syllabus point 1, [744 S.E.2d 251]Andrews v. Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Inc., 201 W.Va. 624, 499 S.E.2d 846 (1997).” Syl. Pt. 1, Lively v. Rufus, 207 W.Va. 436, 533 S.E.2d 662 (2000). 3. “Widespread publicity, of itself, does not require change......
  • Foster v. Sakhai, No. 29339.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 12, 2001
    ...Stillwell v. The City of Wheeling, 210 W. Va. 599, 604, 558 S.E.2d 598, 603 (2001); Syl. pt. 1, Andrews v. Reynolds Mem'l Hosp., Inc., 201 W.Va. 624, 499 S.E.2d 846 (1997). Although the standard when considering a court's granting of a new trial is abuse of discretion, we have cautioned tha......
  • Peters v. Rivers Edge Min., Inc., No. 34272.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 4, 2009
    ...Peters contends that his expert's calculations were consistent with this Court's decision in Andrews v. Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Inc., 201 W.Va. 624, 499 S.E.2d 846 During the pretrial proceedings in this case, the circuit court determined that reinstatement would not be an appropriate r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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