Cotroneo v. Pilney, No. C8-83-388

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtTODD
Citation343 N.W.2d 645
PartiesJoan L. COTRONEO, Appellant, v. Dr. Frank J. PILNEY, Respondent.
Decision Date03 February 1984
Docket NumberNo. C8-83-388

Page 645

343 N.W.2d 645
Joan L. COTRONEO, Appellant,
v.
Dr. Frank J. PILNEY, Respondent.
No. C8-83-388.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
Feb. 3, 1984.

Page 646

Syllabus by the Court

Under the facts of this case, the trial court erred in not permitting the plaintiff to amend her theory of recovery before trial commenced. The failure to permit the amendment under Rule 16 MRCP resulted in manifest injustice.

Larkin, Hoffman, Daly & Lindgren, Ltd., James P. Miley and Thomas J. Flynn, Minneapolis, for appellant.

Geraghty, O'Loughlin & Kennedy, P.A., Terence O'Loughlin, St. Paul, for respondent.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

TODD, Justice.

Joan Cotroneo commenced a medical malpractice action against Dr. Frank J. Pilney 1 alleging negligence and lack of informed consent. Prior to trial, Cotroneo

Page 647

limited her cause of action to lack of informed consent. Her physician withdrew as a witness shortly before trial was to commence. Cotroneo then obtained medical testimony on the issue of negligence. The trial court dismissed the action upon the conclusion that, based on previous trial court orders, it had no choice in the matter. Because of the unusual facts of the case and the provisions of Minn.R.Civ.P. 16, we reverse and remand for trial.

The facts giving rise to the malpractice claim need not be recited as they are not necessary for our consideration and disposition of this matter. The procedural history of the case indicates that the action was commenced in January of 1981. Dr. Pilney served interrogatories which were answered in September of 1981. These answers disclosed that Cotroneo's medical expert was her treating physician, Dr. Jonathan van Heerden of the Rochester Mayo Clinic.

The case was first scheduled for trial on February 2, 1982 and was continued several times. By stipulation of the parties it was rescheduled for May 24, 1982 and again to November 17, 1982 and then to November 29, 1982. Another continuance, sought by Cotroneo and this time opposed by Dr. Pilney, resulted in the trial being set for January 17, 1983.

A videotape deposition of Dr. van Heerden was taken on March 29, 1982 in Rochester. During the deposition appellant's counsel asked Dr. van Heerden questions pertaining to the issue of Dr. Pilney's negligence. Dr. Pilney's attorney objected because informed consent was the only issue identified by appellant in her answers to interrogatories. Cotroneo's attorney decided to continue the deposition at another time and Dr. Pilney's attorney agreed on condition that he be given more complete information about the doctor's opinions.

In June 1982 Dr. Pilney's attorney sent a letter to his opponent suggesting a deadline for Cotroneo's attorney to disclose the names of her experts and their opinions. He then filed a motion in September 1982 to compel discovery of Cotroneo's expert testimony. Cotroneo did not object to this motion and entered into a stipulation which resulted in a pretrial order signed by Judge David Marsden on September 7, 1982. The order precluded Cotroneo from proceeding to trial on a negligence theory and limited her to a theory of informed consent.

Dr. Pilney's counsel scheduled a second deposition of Dr. van Heerden to be taken three days before the January 17, 1983 trial date. In a meeting before this deposition, Dr. van Heerden refused to testify at all.

On the trial date, Cotroneo's attorney obtained a one-week continuance of the trial to allow him to find another expert. Judge Gordon Shumaker issued the continuance order, based on his finding that "plaintiff's predicament was unforeseen and unforeseeable * * *." The order provided that defendants could make motions for dismissal or summary judgment and that "there shall be no further continuances of this action for any reason." Dr. Pilney asserts, and on appeal Cotroneo does not deny, that Judge Shumaker made it clear he was not altering the prior order of Judge Marsden in granting the continuance.

Cotroneo's attorney engaged Dr. Virgil Lundquist to testify and his deposition was taken on January 25, 1983. (No judge was available for trial on January 24 or 25.) Dr. Lundquist expressed the opinion that Dr. Pilney was negligent in failing to properly follow up on Ms. Cotroneo's treatment. He offered no opinions about the informed consent claim.

On January 26, 1982, Dr. Pilney moved for summary judgment, pursuant to Judge Shumaker's order. An affidavit of Dr. Pilney stating that he rendered proper treatment was submitted. Judge Schultz granted summary judgment on the grounds that appellant's answers to interrogatories and Judge Marsden's order limited Ms. Cotroneo to the theory of lack of informed consent.

Judge Schultz stated: "* * * But all I can tell you is that every instinct, every part of my process tells me that I have no

Page 648

choice in this matter. That's how strongly I think the record and the facts speak on this particular issue. I don't see any reason or basis for being able to do anything else unless it's done with the agreement of counsel."

Judgment of dismissal was entered and Cotroneo appeals.

The issue presented is whether under the peculiar facts of this case, the prior orders of the trial court limiting the issue to informed consent should have been modified prior to trial to prevent manifest injustice.

Cotroneo argues the trial court should have modified the September 1982 order limiting the issue to informed consent pursuant to Minn.R.Civ.P. 16, which provides in relevant part:

The court shall make an order which recites the action taken at the conference, the amendments allowed to the pleadings, and the agreements made by the parties as to any of the matters considered, and which limits the issues for trial to those not disposed of by admissions or agreements of counsel; and such order when entered...

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19 practice notes
  • Patterson v. Wu Family Corp., No. C0-98-1961
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • June 15, 1999
    ...and the degree of willfulness, bad faith, or inexcusable neglect on the part of the party seeking modification. Cotroneo v. Pilney, 343 N.W.2d 645, 649 (Minn.1984); Bohdan v. Alltool Mfg. Co., 411 N.W.2d 902, 905 (Minn.App.1987), review denied (Minn. Nov. 13, The district court's scheduling......
  • Schackmann v. Cathedral High School, No. A04-2435 (MN 8/30/2005), No. A04-2435.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 30, 2005
    ...A district court's decision to modify a pretrial order is reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard. See Cortroneo v. Pilney, 343 N.W.2d 645, 648 (Minn. 1984). Minn. R. Civ. P. 16.05 states that a pretrial order entered after a conference with parties shall be modified only to prevent ......
  • Bohdan v. Alltool Mfg., Co., No. C8-87-416
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • September 8, 1987
    ...injustice, id., and a balancing approach should be used to determine when a pretrial order should be modified. Cotroneo v. Pilney, 343 N.W.2d 645, 649 (Minn.1984). In this case, the modification of the order is not before the court; instead, the issue is whether appellant was limited to neg......
  • Smida v. Isanti Pines Tree Farm, LLC, A15-0437
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • November 30, 2015
    ...and the degree of willfulness, bad faith, or inexcusable neglect on the part of the party seeking modification. Cotroneo v. Pilney, 343 N.W.2d 645, 649 (Minn. 1984). "But even if the moving party was diligent in seeking discovery, when further discovery will not reveal material facts, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Patterson v. Wu Family Corp., No. C0-98-1961
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • June 15, 1999
    ...and the degree of willfulness, bad faith, or inexcusable neglect on the part of the party seeking modification. Cotroneo v. Pilney, 343 N.W.2d 645, 649 (Minn.1984); Bohdan v. Alltool Mfg. Co., 411 N.W.2d 902, 905 (Minn.App.1987), review denied (Minn. Nov. 13, The district court's scheduling......
  • Schackmann v. Cathedral High School, No. A04-2435 (MN 8/30/2005), No. A04-2435.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 30, 2005
    ...A district court's decision to modify a pretrial order is reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard. See Cortroneo v. Pilney, 343 N.W.2d 645, 648 (Minn. 1984). Minn. R. Civ. P. 16.05 states that a pretrial order entered after a conference with parties shall be modified only to prevent ......
  • Bohdan v. Alltool Mfg., Co., No. C8-87-416
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • September 8, 1987
    ...injustice, id., and a balancing approach should be used to determine when a pretrial order should be modified. Cotroneo v. Pilney, 343 N.W.2d 645, 649 (Minn.1984). In this case, the modification of the order is not before the court; instead, the issue is whether appellant was limited to neg......
  • Smida v. Isanti Pines Tree Farm, LLC, A15-0437
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • November 30, 2015
    ...and the degree of willfulness, bad faith, or inexcusable neglect on the part of the party seeking modification. Cotroneo v. Pilney, 343 N.W.2d 645, 649 (Minn. 1984). "But even if the moving party was diligent in seeking discovery, when further discovery will not reveal material facts, the d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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