Baker v. Hedstrom, No. 33,635.

Docket NºNo. 33,635.
Citation309 P.3d 1047
Case DateSeptember 05, 2013
CourtSupreme Court of New Mexico

309 P.3d 1047

Bryanna Pearl BAKER, Lorrice Gordon, and Paul Campos, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Cheri Wilson, deceased, Plaintiffs–Petitioners,
v.
Stephanie HEDSTROM, M.D.; Southwest Perinatology; William Ramirez, M.D.; Lee C. Caruana, M.D.; Family Practice Associates, P.C.; Misbah Zmily, M.D.; Misbah Zmily, P.C.; Cordell Halverson, M.D.; San Miguel Hospital Corp., d/b/a Alta Vista Regional Hospital; The Board of Regents of the University of New Mexico, as Trustees of the University of New Mexico Health and Sciences Center; John Doe # 1–20, and Jane Doe # 1–20; ABQ Health Partners, L.L.C.; Loretta Conder, M.D.; Loretta Conder, M.D., P.C., a corporation; Omkar Tiku, M.D.; and Omkar Tiku, P.C., a corporation, Defendants–Respondents.

No. 33,635.

Supreme Court of New Mexico.

Sept. 5, 2013.






Recognized as Unconstitutional


West's NMSA § 41–5–13

[309 P.3d 1048]

McGinn, Carpenter, Montoya & Love, P.A., Tyler John Atkins, Randi McGinn, Law Offices of Felicia C. Weingartner, P.C., Felicia C. Weingartner, The Kauffman Firm, Cid Dagward Lopez, The Vargas Law Firm, L.L.C., Ray M. Vargas, II, Erin O'Connell, Albuquerque, NM, Law Office of Stephen Durkovich, Stephen G. Durkovich, Santa Fe, NM for Petitioners.


Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor & Martin, L.L.P., Dana Simmons Hardy, William P. Slattery, Lorenz Law, Alice Tomlinson Lorenz, Sharp Law Firm, Lynn S. Sharp, Butt, Thornton & Baehr, P.C., Emily A. Franke, W. Ann Maggiore, Miller Stratvert, P.A., Jennifer D. Hall, Krehbiel Law Office, P.C., Lorri Krehbiel, Allen, Shepherd, Lewis, Syra & Chapman, P.A., Edward W. Shepherd, Albuquerque, NM, Serpe, Jones, Andrews, Callendar & Bell, P.L.L.C., Melanie L. Frassanito, Houston, TX, for Respondents.

OPINION

VIGIL, Justice.

{1} This appeal concerns whether defendant professional corporations and a limited liability company are “health care providers” as defined by the Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA” or “the Act”), NMSA 1978, Sections 41–5–1 to –29 (1976, as amended through 2008), so as to be able to receive the benefits of the Act. Although the Court of Appeals determined that Defendants do not literally meet the Act's definition of “health care provider,” it nonetheless held that the Defendants are health care providers under the Act because a strict adherence to the plain language of the definition would conflict with legislative intent. Baker v. Hedstrom, 2012–NMCA–073, ¶ 40, 284 P.3d 400. Applying the rules of statutory construction, we hold that Defendants are health care providers under the Act. Although the Court of Appeals reached the same conclusion, we disagree with the Court's determination that

[309 P.3d 1049]

the definition of “health care provider” literally excludes Defendants. We conclude that several provisions in the Act indicate that the Legislature intended professional medical organizations like Defendants to be covered by the Act. Accordingly, we affirm the Court of Appeals albeit on different grounds.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

{2} This appeal involves three consolidated cases— Baker v. Hedstrom, Gordon v. ABQ Health Partners, LLC, and Campos v. Conder—in which individual plaintiffs brought suits for damages caused by the medical malpractice of their doctors and the business organizations under which each doctor operated.

{3} In Baker, Plaintiff Bryanna Baker filed suit in the Fourth Judicial District Court against her doctors for medical malpractice after they failed to disclose the results of a test revealing that she had a medical condition that could be dangerous to both mother and child if she became pregnant. She subsequently became pregnant and suffered a heart attack that went undiagnosed for two days, resulting in a miscarriage and permanent heart damage. Baker also sued the professional corporations under which each doctor operated, which were formed under the Professional Corporation Act, NMSA 1978, Sections 53–6–1 to –14 (1963, as amended through 2001), claiming that the corporations were vicariously liable for the doctors' acts under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

{4} In Gordon, Plaintiff Lorrice Gordon filed suit in the Second Judicial District Court, alleging that her doctor negligently performed an appendectomy that caused a small bowel obstruction for which she required additional surgery. She also sued the doctor's employer, ABQ Health Partners, LLC, a foreign limited liability company organized under the laws of Delaware, the doctrine of respondeat superior.

{5} Finally, in Campos, Plaintiff Paul Campos, the personal representative of the estate of Cheri Wilson, filed suit in the First Judicial District Court against the doctor who had removed Wilson's gall bladder and her primary care physician, who provided follow-up care, for malpractice after they allegedly failed to diagnose a bile leak caused during the gall bladder surgery. Wilson subsequently died due to the undiagnosed bile leak. Each doctor practiced under a professional corporation formed under the Professional Corporation Act, and Campos also sued these corporations under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

{6} Baker moved for summary judgment on her claim against the defendant business entities, arguing that they could not benefit from the damages cap under the MMA because they did not meet the MMA's definition of “health care provider.” The district court denied Baker's summary judgment motion and certified the issue of whether the defendant corporations were qualified health care providers for interlocutory appeal.

{7} In Gordon, Defendant ABQ Health Partners, LLC filed a motion to dismiss or stay, arguing that it was a qualified health care provider covered by the MMA and Gordon failed to comply with the requirements of the MMA. The district court denied the motion and certified the case for interlocutory appeal on whether ABQ Health Partners, LLC qualified as a healthcare provider.

{8} The district court in Campos found that the defendant corporations were qualified health care providers, but stayed the litigation in anticipation of an interlocutory appeal. Campos then applied for an interlocutory appeal on whether “the Legislature's decision not to include professional corporations as ‘health care providers' in the MMA is given binding force in district courts across the State of New Mexico.”

{9} The Court of Appeals granted all three interlocutory appeals and consolidated them because they each raised a similar question. Baker, 2012–NMCA–073, ¶ 6, 284 P.3d 400. The Court ultimately concluded that the plain language of the definition of “health care provider” in Section 41–5–3(A) of the MMA literally excludes Defendants, but that adhering to the literal language of the definition “would conflict with the overall legislative purpose” and “would make little sense in

[309 P.3d 1050]

light of the historical circumstances” leading to the enactment of the MMA and “the structure of the MMA itself.” Baker, 2012–NMCA–073, ¶¶ 17–18, 284 P.3d 400. Consequently, the Court of Appeals held “that the Legislature intended to include Defendants in the definition of ‘health care provider’ and, thus, to allow them to qualify for coverage under the MMA.” Id. ¶ 40. Plaintiffs then filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which we granted. While we agree with the Court of Appeals that the Legislature intended the MMA to cover qualified professional medical organizations like Defendants, we do so under a different approach.

II. DISCUSSIONA. Standard of Review and Rules of Statutory Construction

{10} Our task is to determine whether the Legislature intended Defendants to be eligible to qualify as “health care providers” under the MMA so as to receive the Act's benefits. See§ 41–5–3(A) (defining “health care provider”); § 41–5–5(C) (explaining that health care providers that do not meet the qualifications under that “section shall not have the benefit of any of the provisions of the [MMA]”). Whether the Legislature intended professional medical organizations like Defendants to become qualified “health care providers” under the MMA presents an issue of statutory construction, which is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo. See United Rentals Nw., Inc. v. Yearout Mech., Inc., 2010–NMSC–030, ¶ 7, 148 N.M. 426, 237 P.3d 728 (“The meaning of language used in a statute is a question of law that we review de novo.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).

{11} “When construing statutes, our guiding principle is to determine and give effect to legislative intent.” El Paso Elec. Co. v. N.M. Pub. Regulation Comm'n, 2010–NMSC–048, ¶ 7, 149 N.M. 174, 246 P.3d 443 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted), accord Jordan v. Allstate Ins. Co., 2010–NMSC–051, ¶ 15, 149 N.M. 162, 245 P.3d 1214 (“This Court's primary goal when interpreting statutes is to further legislative intent.”). We “us[e] the plain language of the statute as the primary indicator of legislative intent[.]” State v. Willie, 2009–NMSC–037, ¶ 9, 146 N.M. 481, 212 P.3d 369 (second alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). However, “[i]f the plain meaning of the statute is doubtful, ambiguous, or [if] an adherence to the literal use of the words would lead to injustice, absurdity or contradiction, we will construe the statute according to its obvious spirit or reason.” Id. (second alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

B. The Definition of “Health Care Provider” Includes Professional Medical Organizations As Expressed in the Purpose of the Act and the Language in the Act

{12} Plaintiffs argue that the plain meaning of the definition of “health care provider” excludes Defendants. We first examine Plaintiffs' interpretation in the context of the Legislature's purpose for enacting the MMA and, like the Court of Appeals, conclude that their interpretation is irreconcilable with the Act's purpose. See Baker, 2012–NMCA–073, ¶ 29, 284 P.3d 400.

{13} However, we then diverge from the Court of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
88 practice notes
  • Cahn v. Berryman, NO. S-1-SC-35302
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • November 20, 2017
    ...Ruth L. Kovnat, Medical Malpractice Legislation in New Mexico , 7 N.M. L. Rev. 5, 7 (1976-77)), aff'd on other grounds , 2013-NMSC-043, 309 P.3d 1047. The insurance crisis prompted concerns about the departure of medical providers from New Mexico as well as the availability of recovery for ......
  • N.M. Oncology & Hematology Consultants, Ltd. v. Presbyterian Healthcare Servs., Civ. No. 12–00526 MV/GBW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • August 22, 2014
    ...Brooks v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 120 N.M. 372, 902 P.2d 54 (1995), apportionment of liability, see, e.g., Baker v. Hedstrom, –––N.M. ––––, 309 P.3d 1047 (N.M.2013), and foreseeability with respect to liability for physical and emotional harm, see, e.g., Rodriguez v. Del Sol Shopping Ctr. Ass......
  • Harjo v. City of Albuquerque, CIV 16-1113 JB/JHR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • March 30, 2018
    ...considered in interpreting a statute and is evidence of the statute's proper interpretation. See Baker v. Hedstrom, 2013-NMSC-043, ¶ 15, 309 P.3d 1047, 1051 ("We must examine Plaintiffs' interpretation in the context of the statute as a whole including the purposes and consequences of the A......
  • Oncology v. Presbyterian Healthcare Servs. & Presbyterian Network, Inc., Civ. No. 12–00526 MV/GBW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • August 22, 2014
    ...Brooks v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 120 N.M. 372, 902 P.2d 54 (1995), apportionment of liability, see, e.g., Baker v. Hedstrom, –––N.M. ––––, 309 P.3d 1047 (N.M.2013), and foreseeability with respect to liability for physical and emotional harm, see, e.g., Rodriguez v. Del Sol Shopping Ctr. Ass......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
90 cases
  • Cahn v. Berryman, NO. S-1-SC-35302
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • November 20, 2017
    ...Ruth L. Kovnat, Medical Malpractice Legislation in New Mexico , 7 N.M. L. Rev. 5, 7 (1976-77)), aff'd on other grounds , 2013-NMSC-043, 309 P.3d 1047. The insurance crisis prompted concerns about the departure of medical providers from New Mexico as well as the availability of recovery for ......
  • N.M. Oncology & Hematology Consultants, Ltd. v. Presbyterian Healthcare Servs., Civ. No. 12–00526 MV/GBW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • August 22, 2014
    ...Brooks v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 120 N.M. 372, 902 P.2d 54 (1995), apportionment of liability, see, e.g., Baker v. Hedstrom, –––N.M. ––––, 309 P.3d 1047 (N.M.2013), and foreseeability with respect to liability for physical and emotional harm, see, e.g., Rodriguez v. Del Sol Shopping Ctr. Ass......
  • Harjo v. City of Albuquerque, CIV 16-1113 JB/JHR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • March 30, 2018
    ...considered in interpreting a statute and is evidence of the statute's proper interpretation. See Baker v. Hedstrom, 2013-NMSC-043, ¶ 15, 309 P.3d 1047, 1051 ("We must examine Plaintiffs' interpretation in the context of the statute as a whole including the purposes and consequences of the A......
  • Oncology v. Presbyterian Healthcare Servs. & Presbyterian Network, Inc., Civ. No. 12–00526 MV/GBW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • August 22, 2014
    ...Brooks v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 120 N.M. 372, 902 P.2d 54 (1995), apportionment of liability, see, e.g., Baker v. Hedstrom, –––N.M. ––––, 309 P.3d 1047 (N.M.2013), and foreseeability with respect to liability for physical and emotional harm, see, e.g., Rodriguez v. Del Sol Shopping Ctr. Ass......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT