Bergstrom v. Palmetto Health Alliance, No. 3552.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtANDERSON, J.
Citation352 S.C. 221,573 S.E.2d 805
PartiesTamera Jean BERGSTROM, Appellant, v. PALMETTO HEALTH ALLIANCE d/b/a Palmetto Baptist Medical Center of Columbia and d/b/a Baptist Medical Center, Respondent.
Decision Date30 September 2002
Docket NumberNo. 3552.

352 S.C. 221
573 S.E.2d 805

Tamera Jean BERGSTROM, Appellant,
v.
PALMETTO HEALTH ALLIANCE d/b/a Palmetto Baptist Medical Center of Columbia and d/b/a Baptist Medical Center, Respondent

No. 3552.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard September 11, 2002.

Decided September 30, 2002.

Rehearing Denied December 19, 2002.


352 S.C. 224
William Isaac Diggs, of Myrtle Beach, for Appellant

William L. Pope, of Columbia, for Respondent.

ANDERSON, J.:

Tamera Bergstrom sued Palmetto Health Alliance ("the hospital") alleging the hospital was negligent and committed the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress regarding her purported adoption in 1979. The hospital moved to dismiss the claims and filed a motion to cap the hospital's liability at $100,000. The Circuit Court granted the hospital's motion to dismiss the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim and the motion to cap damages to $100,000. The Circuit Court denied the hospital's motion to dismiss the negligence claim.

At trial, the hospital moved for directed verdict on the negligence claim at the close of the presentation of Bergstrom's evidence. The Circuit Court granted the directed verdict motion. Bergstrom appeals the grant of the hospital's motions for: (1) directed verdict on the negligence claim; (2) dismissal of the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim; and (3) limitation on the hospital's liability to $100,000. We affirm.

352 S.C. 225
FACTS/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Tamera Bergstrom was born on November 16, 1979, at Baptist Medical Center in Columbia. In early 1979, Debbie Daly,1 Bergstrom's natural mother, became pregnant. Daly was seventeen years old, unmarried, and living at Murrells Inlet. Daly discussed her predicament with a coworker who introduced her to Mary Andrews, the coworker's mother. After speaking with Andrews, Daly began considering placing the baby for adoption. When Daly was six and one-half months into her pregnancy, she visited Andrews in Columbia and lived with her for one week.

During the week Daly lived with Andrews, Andrews took Daly to meet with attorney Joel Padgett where they discussed placing the baby for adoption. Daly did not remember signing any adoption papers at this meeting. Padgett suggested Daly move in with Claire Wilson. Wilson allowed Daly to stay with her in her home rent and expense free until Daly went to the hospital to deliver the baby. While living with Wilson, Daly was told the baby was to be adopted by a hospital administrator and his wife, who was a nurse. Daly was informed that this couple had already adopted three children and would be good parents for the baby.

Daly went to Baptist Medical Center to deliver the baby. Daly testified that the choice of hospital and medical doctors was arranged by Padgett and she had no input in the decision. She stated she never discussed adoption with any of the doctors prior to going to the hospital to deliver the baby. Daly delivered Bergstrom at 7:57 p.m. She was administered anesthesia in the delivery room. Daly never saw Bergstrom.

The hospital had procedures in place at the time to govern the conduct of hospital employees in adoption situations. These policies read:

ADOPTION
DEFINITION AND PURPOSE
352 S.C. 226
To provide service for those mothers who wish to consider adoption for their newborn.
POLICY
1. Have the mother sign "Permit" to Release Baby for Adoption.
2. The mother and/or her immediate family may see the infant at any time prior to discharge.
3. Adoptive parents are not to see the infant while the baby is in the hospital.
4. A social service referral should be made if the mother has not made previous arrangements.
5. Have attorney or caseworker sign circumcision permit for male infants.
RESPONSIBLE PERSONS RN, LPN, Unit Manager GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS
1. Call Social Service Department at BMCC if there are questions about adoption.
2. In private adoptions, have attorney ask adoptive parents if they would like a Home Health Referral for baby care instructions.
3. Mother may view infant through the nursery window or in her room if she requests.
4. Mother's immediate family may view the infant through the nursery window.
PROCEDURE
....
1. Notify the Unit Manager when mother is ready to sign "Permit for Release of Baby for Adoption."
2. Two original forms must be signed. Place one copy on the mother's chart and one copy on the baby's chart.
3. Give discharge instruction to attorney or caseworker.
4. Release baby to attorney or caseworker following Dismissal of Newborn Procedure.

On the day following Bergstrom's birth, Daly began to have second thoughts about placing Bergstrom for adoption. On the third day after the delivery, the day Daly was to leave the hospital, she decided she wanted to see Bergstrom. When

352 S.C. 227
Daly asked whether she could see the baby, the nurse responded, "[a]re you the adopting parent?" When Daly answered no, the nurse told her "the baby was being placed up for adoption and that [she] couldn't see the child."

Daly returned to her room and began crying. When Wilson arrived to pick Daly up, she asked why Daly was crying. Daly told her the hospital would not let her see the baby and that she did not want to give the baby up for adoption. Wilson told Daly there was nothing Daly could do at that point, the papers had already been signed, and the adoption was final. Daly testified that, during the length of her stay at the hospital, none of the hospital staff came and spoke with her about the adoption. Daly stated Wilson told her she needed to sign a release form before she left the hospital. As Daly was leaving the hospital, she signed the form, which provided:

PERMISSION TO RELEASE BABY TO PARTY OTHER THAN MOTHER

I, the undersigned, mother of Baby Gardner, [Daly's maiden name] who was born in the South Carolina Baptist Hospital, Columbia, South Carolina on 11/16/79, hereby authorize and direct the ... [h]ospital to release and deliver said baby to Joel Padgett (Atty) or his or her agents and release and discharge [the hospital] from any claims on account of such release and delivery.
It has been fully explained to me and I understand that this does not in any way affect the permanent custody of my child and is given for the purpose of authorizing the [hospital] to permit the person named above to remove my child from the hospital as an accommodation to me.

After signing the form, Daly left the hospital and stayed with Wilson for three weeks before returning to Murrells Inlet. Daly did not see Bergstrom before leaving.

Padgett's initial plan to have the baby adopted by the hospital administrator fell through and he began to look for someone to adopt her. He found the Bergstroms. Padgett did not file adoption papers and the Bergstroms never obtained legal custody of the baby. Bergstrom declared that she lived in an R.V. with the Bergstroms and their two other children. They moved from campground to campground in various states.

352 S.C. 228
The Colorado state authorities placed Bergstrom in protective custody when she was eleven years old because Mrs. Bergstrom's boyfriend had taken nude photographs of her. When Bergstrom was fourteen, Colorado authorities found that her birth certificate had been fraudulently altered and referred the case to South Carolina authorities to investigate. Detective David Cribb began investigating the birth certificate and found that Daly was Bergstrom's natural mother. After conducting DNA tests to verify that Daly was the mother, the Colorado authorities released Bergstrom to Daly's custody when Bergstrom was fifteen years old

Bergstrom filed suit against the hospital seeking to recover damages under theories of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The hospital filed a Rule 12, SCRCP motion to dismiss the claims. The Circuit Court granted the hospital's motion to dismiss the intentional infliction of emotional...

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7 practice notes
  • Nelson v. QHG OF SOUTH CAROLINA INC., No. 3626.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 14, 2003
    ...to dismiss based upon the plaintiffs failure to state a claim constituting a cause of action. Bergstrom v. Palmetto Health Alliance, 352 S.C. 221, 573 S.E.2d 805 (Ct.App.2002). The trial judge may dismiss the claim if the defendant demonstrates the plaintiff has failed "to state facts suffi......
  • Regions Bank v. Schmauch, No. 3651.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 9, 2003
    ...599 (2002); Kleckley v. Northwestern Nat'l Cas. Co., 338 S.C. 131, 138, 526 S.E.2d 218, 221 (2000); Bergstrom v. Palmetto Health Alliance, 352 S.C. 221, 229, 573 S.E.2d 805, 808-09 (Ct.App.2002). In determining whether a particular act is negligent, the test used is what would a person of o......
  • Hurd v. Williamsburg County, No. 3614.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 17, 2003
    ...injury. Bishop v. South Carolina Dep't of Mental Health, 331 S.C. 79, 502 S.E.2d 78 (1998); Bergstrom v. Palmetto Health Alliance, 352 S.C. 221, 573 S.E.2d 805 (Ct.App.2002). It is apodictic that a plaintiff may only recover for injuries proximately caused by the defendant's negligence. Par......
  • State v. Ladson, No. 4232.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 9, 2007
    ...of a post-conviction hearing after appellant failed to allege specifics regarding his assignments of error); and Whitehead, 352 S.C. at 221, 574 S.E.2d at 203 (remanding matter to circuit court for reconstruction hearing and instructing, "If the circuit court judge determines that reconstru......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Nelson v. QHG OF SOUTH CAROLINA INC., No. 3626.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 14, 2003
    ...to dismiss based upon the plaintiffs failure to state a claim constituting a cause of action. Bergstrom v. Palmetto Health Alliance, 352 S.C. 221, 573 S.E.2d 805 (Ct.App.2002). The trial judge may dismiss the claim if the defendant demonstrates the plaintiff has failed "to state facts suffi......
  • Regions Bank v. Schmauch, No. 3651.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 9, 2003
    ...599 (2002); Kleckley v. Northwestern Nat'l Cas. Co., 338 S.C. 131, 138, 526 S.E.2d 218, 221 (2000); Bergstrom v. Palmetto Health Alliance, 352 S.C. 221, 229, 573 S.E.2d 805, 808-09 (Ct.App.2002). In determining whether a particular act is negligent, the test used is what would a person of o......
  • Hurd v. Williamsburg County, No. 3614.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 17, 2003
    ...injury. Bishop v. South Carolina Dep't of Mental Health, 331 S.C. 79, 502 S.E.2d 78 (1998); Bergstrom v. Palmetto Health Alliance, 352 S.C. 221, 573 S.E.2d 805 (Ct.App.2002). It is apodictic that a plaintiff may only recover for injuries proximately caused by the defendant's negligence. Par......
  • State v. Ladson, No. 4232.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 9, 2007
    ...of a post-conviction hearing after appellant failed to allege specifics regarding his assignments of error); and Whitehead, 352 S.C. at 221, 574 S.E.2d at 203 (remanding matter to circuit court for reconstruction hearing and instructing, "If the circuit court judge determines that reconstru......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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