Brauner v. AHC of Boise, LLC, Docket No. 45980

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtSTEGNER, Justice.
Citation459 P.3d 1246
Parties Leila R. BRAUNER, an individual, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. AHC OF BOISE, LLC, a Utah corporation, dba Aspen Transitional Rehab, Defendant-Appellant, and Richard E. Moore, M.D.; Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Inc., an Idaho general nonprofit corporation, dba Saint Alphonsus Medical Group and dba Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center - Boise, and Jason S. Ludwig, M.D., Defendants.
Decision Date04 February 2020
Docket NumberDocket No. 45980

459 P.3d 1246

Leila R. BRAUNER, an individual, Plaintiff-Respondent,
AHC OF BOISE, LLC, a Utah corporation, dba Aspen Transitional Rehab, Defendant-Appellant,
Richard E. Moore, M.D.; Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Inc., an Idaho general nonprofit corporation, dba Saint Alphonsus Medical Group and dba Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center - Boise, and Jason S. Ludwig, M.D., Defendants.

Docket No. 45980

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise, November 2019 Term.

Opinion Filed: February 4, 2020
Petition for Rehearing Denied: April 3, 2020

Quane Jones McColl, PLLC, Boise, for appellant AHC of Boise, LLC. Matthew F. McColl, Boise, argued.

Rossman Law Group, PLLC, Boise; and Alan Coffel, Coffel Law P.C., Nampa, for respondent Leila R. Brauner. Eric S. Rossman, Boise, argued.

STEGNER, Justice.

This case involves a suit for medical malpractice brought by Leila Brauner against AHC of Boise, dba Aspen Transitional Rehab (Aspen). The claim arose out of Aspen’s delay in sending Brauner to the hospital following her knee replacement surgery, which was a substantial factor resulting in the amputation of Brauner’s right leg at the mid-thigh. After a trial, the jury entered a verdict in favor of Brauner and awarded her $2,265,204 in damages. Aspen appeals alleging that various pre-trial and post-trial rulings were in error and resulted in an unsustainable judgment. For the reasons set out, we affirm.


A. Brauner’s surgery, rehabilitation at Aspen, and amputation of her right leg.

At seventy-six years old, Brauner began experiencing significant pain in her right knee. In order to continue her independent life and to relieve the pain, Brauner underwent a total knee arthroplasty, which was performed by Richard Moore (Moore), an orthopedic surgeon. Brauner underwent the surgery on February 18, 2014. The surgery was performed at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. Brauner was transferred from St. Alphonsus to Aspen for rehabilitation three days after the surgery. During her time at Aspen, Brauner experienced significantly more pain in her knee and could put little to no weight on her leg.

On March 3, 2014, Brauner had a post-operative appointment with Moore at which he observed swelling in her knee and numbness in her foot. Also at this appointment, Brauner had x-rays taken of her right leg. It is undisputed that a fracture in Brauner’s femur was visible in the x-ray at the time. However, Moore failed to diagnose the fracture. Instead, he recommended that Brauner ice and elevate her leg to help with the swelling in her knee. Brauner then returned to Aspen for continued care and rehabilitation.

During her remaining time at Aspen, Brauner made little progress. On March 14, 2014, Brauner complained of increasing significant pain. In the early morning of March 15, 2014, Brauner began showing signs of confusion. Brauner’s condition continued to worsen over the next twenty-four hours. At 3:03 a.m. on March 16, 2014, Brauner was noted to have noticeable confusion that was "increasing as the night" went on. The nursing notes indicated that Brauner’s right foot curled inward and appeared to be limp. On March 17, 2014, at 12:20 a.m., Brauner’s pulse was 126 beats per minute, a dramatic increase from her normal rate of 72. By 3:43 a.m., Brauner was still acting confused, attempting to get out of bed, and pushing the nursing assistant away. The nursing notes also indicated that Brauner’s leg had "very tight edema" when it had only been trace

459 P.3d 1250

edema previously. Additionally, the nursing notes indicated that there was massive bruising along the right lower extremity. Brauner expressed that she was in the worst pain of her life, and yelled, "just shoot me" to her caregivers. Brauner’s nursing expert testified at trial that the observations made by Brauner’s nurses were very concerning and should have warranted further investigation, including contacting a physician.

Brauner’s final assessment at Aspen occurred at 5:28 a.m. on March 17, 2014. Brauner’s leg was cold to the touch, her skin was pale, and she had no pedal pulse. Brauner insisted upon being transferred to the emergency department. At the emergency department, it was determined that the femoral fracture had completely severed the femoral artery. While attempts were made to save Brauner’s leg, the right leg was ultimately amputated at mid-thigh on March 19, 2014.

B. Course of proceedings.

On November 5, 2015, Brauner filed a medical malpractice claim against Moore, St. Alphonsus Medical Center, Aspen, and Dr. Jason Ludwig, the medical director at Aspen. Ludwig and St. Alphonsus Medical Center were later dismissed. District Judge Melissa Moody presided over the case from November 5, 2015, to January 18, 2018. Senior Judge Gerald Schroeder presided over the remainder of the case.1

Judge Moody issued an amended scheduling order pursuant to I.R.C.P. 16(a). According to the amended order, a jury trial was scheduled for February 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22, 2018. This order also set forth deadlines for expert witness disclosures. Notwithstanding the order, the parties filed two separate stipulations to extend the deadlines. In the second stipulation, Brauner’s expert witness disclosures were due November 1, 2017, and Aspen’s expert disclosures were due December 15, 2017. While Judge Moody issued an order approving the first stipulation to extend the deadlines, there is nothing in the record to indicate that Judge Moody approved the second stipulation.

Brauner filed her expert witness disclosures on November 6, 2017. In that disclosure, Brauner disclosed, among other things, the following expert witnesses: Michelle Nielson Cook (Cook), a certified life care planner, and Moore, the doctor who performed Brauner’s knee surgery. While this disclosure had been filed after the date agreed upon in the second stipulation, one of Aspen’s former attorneys, Leslie Brown (Brown), stated in an affidavit that Aspen had stipulated with Brauner to extend the deadline to November 6, 2017. Although there is nothing in the record to suggest that the stipulation was filed with or approved by the court, the parties appear to have operated pursuant to the extended deadlines, as Aspen filed its expert disclosures five days after the date that was stated in the second stipulation.

Brauner filed an amended expert witness disclosure on November 9, 2017. In her amended disclosure, Brauner expanded her disclosure of Moore’s testimony to include that he intended to testify about what he would have done had he been informed of Brauner’s condition on March 14, 2014.

The case went to trial beginning February 13, 2018. After a seven-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Brauner. The jury awarded Brauner $2,265,204.

Aspen appealed from the judgment entered against it. During the pendency of the appeal, Aspen filed several post-judgment motions, including motions to compel certain documents from Cook and a motion pursuant to I.R.C.P. 60(b)(3). In its I.R.C.P. 60(b)(3) motion, Aspen alleged that Brauner’s attorneys committed misconduct and misrepresented their negotiations and settlement agreement with Moore. The district court denied this motion. Aspen filed an amended notice of appeal to include the district court’s decision to deny Aspen’s Rule 60(b)(3) motion.


On appeal, Aspen challenges the district court’s decisions regarding expert witness testimony, evidentiary matters, and a

459 P.3d 1251

motion for relief from judgment. This Court reviews all of the above matters for an abuse of discretion. Perry v. Magic Valley Reg’l Med. Ctr. , 134 Idaho 46, 50–51, 995 P.2d 816, 820–21 (2000). This Court reviews a district court’s evidentiary rulings under an abuse of discretion standard. Id. at 50, 995 P.2d at 820 (citing Kozlowski v. Rush , 121 Idaho 825, 827, 828 P.2d 854, 856 (1992) ). These evidentiary rulings include decisions by the district court to admit or exclude expert witness testimony. Id. (citation omitted). "Error may not be predicated upon a ruling which admits or excludes evidence unless the ruling is a manifest abuse of the trial court’s discretion and a substantial right of the party is affected." Ballard v. Kerr , 160 Idaho 674, 693, 378 P.3d 464, 483 (2016) (quotation and citations omitted).

Additionally, this Court reviews a district court’s decision to deny a Rule 60(b)(3) motion under an abuse of discretion standard. PHH Mortg. v. Nickerson , 160 Idaho 388, 393, 374 P.3d 551, 556 (2016) (citation omitted).

In order to determine if the district court abused its discretion, this Court analyzes:

Whether the trial court: (1) correctly perceived the issue as one of discretion; (2) acted within the outer boundaries of its discretion; (3) acted consistently with the legal standards applicable to the specific choices available to it; and (4) reached its decision by the exercise of reason.

Lunneborg v. My Fun Life , 163 Idaho 856, 863, 421 P.3d 187, 194 (2018) (citation omitted).


A. The district court did not err in its decisions regarding...

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