Citizens Hospital Ass'n v. Schoulin

Decision Date10 May 1972
Docket Number7 Div. 35
Citation48 Ala.App. 101,262 So.2d 303
CourtAlabama Court of Civil Appeals

Dixon, Wooten, Boyett & McCrary, Talladega, for appellant.

Coleman & Hancock, Birmingham, for appellee.


This action arose as a result of the complaint filed by appellee against appellant, Dr. R. C. Denny and fictitious parties for negligently failing to discover and properly treat certain injuries received by appellee in an auto accident.

There were demurrers filed to the complaint by appellant and Dr. Denny. Later appellee amended the complaint by striking the fictitious parties and Count 2; demurrers were refiled to the complaint as amended and they were overruled. The appellant and Dr. Denny then pleaded the general issue.

The case was tried before the court and a jury on Counts 1 and 2 of the complaint wherein it was averred that the named defendants, Citizens Hospital and Dr. R. C. Denny, had undertaken to provide care for appellee, had failed to discover his injuries, had negligently failed to retain him for treatment, and that Dr. Denny had negligently diagnosed and prescribed treatment for appellee over the telephone.

The jury returned a verdict for appellee and against appellant, Citizens Hospital, for $5,000, thereby finding in favor of Dr. Denny. Judgment was entered based on the verdict. There was a motion for new trial, which was overruled, and from the final judgment and ruling on the motion for new trial, there was an appeal taken to this court by the appellant.

The evidence reveals that in January 1968 the employees of Beaunit Mills in Childersburg, Alabama were on strike. On January 27, 1968 appellee, an employee of Beaunit Mills, was walking the picket line along with several other employees. Around midnight of that day, appellant and the other picketers were relieved and appellant went with two other picketers to visit a friend in Munford, Alabama.

Late that night the appellant, in the company of his two fellow employees, left for Childersburg. The two friends were in the front seat and appellant was in the back seat. The night was foggy and the driver entered a dead end street, and before he could stop, collided with a tree at the end of the street.

Appellant was taken out of the car and placed beside the road. A passing motorist was flagged down and persuaded to take appellant and the other two occupants of the wrecked car to the hospital in Talladega, Alabama. En route to the hospital, appellee made frequent complaints about his back hurting.

The appellee arrived at the Citizens Hospital in Talladega somewhere between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m. on the night in question. The driver blew the horn of his car, appellee was taken out of the car, and the car departed.

The tendencies of the evidence introduced on behalf of the appellee showed from this point on that two orderlies came out to the car, removed him from the car, placed him on a movable stretcher and rolled him to the emergency room. The two friends of appellee stated that they were with him at all times except when one of them went to a telephone to call Mr. W. G. Carroll.

Appellee and his witnesses stated that they told Mrs. Yates, the nurse on duty in the emergency room of appellant, that appellee's back had been injured in an auto accident and it might be broken.

The testimony was then to the effect that Mrs. Yates asked appellee to wriggle his toes, which he did, with Mrs. Yates commenting that anyone with a broken back could not wriggle his toes.

Then, according to the testimony for appellee, Mrs. Yates commenced to manipulate appellee's legs, and it was shortly after this manipulation that appellee felt his lower trunk get numb.

It was also the effect of the testimony for appellee that appellee, along with his friends, was asking Mrs. Yates to get a doctor, that he had no local doctor. According to appellee and his witnesses, Mrs. Yates stated that appellee needed no doctor, that she considered herself to be a pretty good doctor and there was nothing wrong with him.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Yates did call Dr. R. C. Denny, the doctor on call for emergency room duty, advised the doctor that she had examined appellee and could find nothing wrong with him, and that appellee and his friends had been drinking.

Dr. Denny stated that he remembered Mrs. Yates calling him and that he prescribed a shot of codeine. He further stated that he advised Mrs. Yates to admit appellee and have x-rays and other diagnostic tests made on him. He denies that Mrs. Yates informed him that appellee was complaining of a back injury, or that she informed him that appellee could or could not walk.

The witnesses for appellee stated that during the time they were trying to get Mrs. Yates to admit appellee to the hospital, she was informed that appellee had Blue Cross insurance through Beaunit Mills, but they were allegedly told that since Beaunit was on strike, the insurance was no good.

Mr. W. G. Carroll, who was now at the hospital, offered Mrs. Yates a cash deposit if she would admit appellee to appellant as a patient, but was told there was no need for admission because there was nothing wrong with appellee. Carroll stated that he then informed Mrs. Yates that appellee had urinated on himself without his having been aware that he had done so.

After Mrs. Yates refused to admit appellee, so the evidence goes, appellee was then placed in Mr. Carroll's car and taken to appellee's home where he was placed in bed.

The testimony then was to the effect that appellee slept fitfully for a few hours, complaining during the period he was awake, that his back hurt.

Appellee's wife stated that she assisted appellee to the bathroom and attempted to give him an enema.

On the following day, appellee discovered blood in his urine, and he was then taken by auto to a hospital in Sylacauga, where it was discovered that he had a broken back. Six days later he was transferred to University Hospital in Birmingham, where he remained until February 29, 1968.

Appellee claims that he had then, and still has, a numbness in one of his legs.

The tendencies of the evidence for appellant reveal that appellee was carried into the hospital by his two friends, that two orderlies met them in the hallway, placed appellee in a wheelchair and carried him to the emergency room, where Mrs. Yates, the emergency room nurse, examined appellee and called Dr. Denny. This occurred somewhere between 4:20 and 5:00 a.m. Appellant's witnesses further state that appellee's two friends were not with him in the emergency room, that no one other than the injured and hospital personnel are allowed in the emergency room. It was contended by appellant's witnesses that appellee and his friends had been drinking. Appellee denies that they had been drinking.

Mrs. Yates testified that appellee was dirty and unshaven and appeared to be under the influence of intoxicants and was complaining bitterly about his back hurting. She denied manipulating appellee's legs. She also stated that appellee asked her to call a doctor. She called Dr. Denny, who was the emergency room doctor on call that night, and gave him the results of her findings.

Mrs. Yates stated that Dr. Denny told her to give the appellee a grain of codeine for his pain and to advise him he could stay in the hospital and the doctor would be there in about an hour. She denied that Dr. Denny told her to have x-rays made of appellee.

According to Mrs. Yates, the appellee, upon being informed that it would take the doctor about an hour to get to the hospital, stated: 'Hell no, he didn't want to stay in the hospital if he had to wait an hour to see a doctor.' Mrs. Yates then said that appellee was then taken away from the hospital in a private car.

In response to a question put to him by Mrs. Yates, concerning how he planned to pay his bill, appellee is supposed to have said that he had insurance and Mrs. Yates told him she did not think his insurance would cover his bill, but if not, he would be billed.

Mrs. Yates stated that she did not tell the doctor that appellee could not move his legs because she thought he could move them. She also stated that she did not tell the doctor that appellee was numb because appellee did not say that he was numb. Mrs. Yates further stated that she did not see Dr. Denny at the hospital before she left around seven a.m.

Mrs. Yates also stated that she did not remember saying to appellee or anyone else that appellee's insurance was no good because Beaunit Mills was on strike, and she did not remember anyone telling her that if appellee's insurance was no good, he would pay the money for appellee's admission to the hospital.

Dr. Denny testified that Mrs. Yates called him and told him there was a man in the emergency room complaining of chest and back pains, appeared to have been drinking, and she didn't think the man was seriously hurt, although he was 'complaining quite a bit.' He stated that he ordered her to give the man a grain of codeine, that it would be best to keep him at the hospital, take x-rays and other laboratory tests. Dr. Denny says that he told Mrs. Yates to admit appellee to the hospital.

Dr. Denny stated that Mrs. Yates did not tell him appellee could not walk nor that he did not have any feeling in his legs.

Dr. Campbell, a practicing physician in Talladega, testified that a person with a comminuted compression fracture of the third lumbar vertebrae could become numb due to a severed nerve or by swelling in the area of the fracture exerting pressure on the nerve causing numbness. He stated after having some of the evidence relative to appellee's injury related to him, that the numbness could have been caused by a severed nerve, which symptom would have revealed itself immediately after the injury or if the numbness was due to the swelling, such numbness could appear at any time.

Dr. Campbell stated after...

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3 cases
  • Bowden ex rel. Bowden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Alabama
    • November 29, 2000
    ...Cares: The Evolution of the Legal Duty to Provide Emergency Care, 26 HOUS. L. REV. 21, 30 (1989); see also Citizens Hosp. Ass'n v. Schoulin, 48 Ala.App. 101, 262 So.2d 303, 308 (1972) (limiting Crews on such grounds). In any event, if Crews or Harper suggested that there is no duty to treat......
  • Ortiz v. Shah
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • June 8, 1995 the hospital within twenty minutes, and therefore he breached his specific agreement to treat Ortiz.2 See Citizens Hosp. Ass'n v. Schoulin, 48 Ala.App. 101, 262 So.2d 303 (1972); Thompson v. Sun City Community Hosp., 142 Ariz. 1, 688 P.2d 647 (1983), aff'd in part, rev'd in part 141 Ariz......
  • Fjerstad v. Knutson
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    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • October 26, 1978
    ...(1934), once it undertakes to render medical aid, the hospital is required to do so non-negligently. See Citizens Hospital Association v. Schoulin, 48 Ala.App. 101, 262 So.2d 303 (1972); Register v. Wilmington Medical Center Inc., 377 A.2d 8 (Del.Supr.1977); Bourgeois v. Dade County, 99 So.......

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