Criswell v. Brentwood Hosp.

Decision Date12 June 1989
Docket NumberNo. 55447,55447
Citation551 N.E.2d 1315,49 Ohio App.3d 163
PartiesCRISWELL, et al., Appellants, v. BRENTWOOD HOSPITAL, et al., Appellees.
CourtOhio Court of Appeals

Syllabus by the Court

1. A hospital and medical center's report to child welfare authorities that a minor child has a sexually transmitted disease is immune from liability under R.C. 2151.421 even though (1) the diagnosis is 2. A cause of action for the negligent infliction of emotional distress (as a result of a misdiagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease in a minor child) is not stated where the child and her family do not experience a real physical danger, but merely a fear of a non-existent physical peril.

mistaken, and (2) the child presents no evidence of a wound, injury, trauma, disability, or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates child abuse.

Michael A. Sanson, Cleveland, for appellants.

Reminger & Reminger Co., L.P.A., and John R. Scott, Cleveland, for appellees.

McMANAMON, Chief Judge.

Plaintiffs Veronica Criswell, her parents Maria and Gilbert Criswell, and her brothers Mark and Timothy Criswell ("the family") appeal from a summary judgment granted on February 22, 1988 in favor of defendants, Brentwood Hospital and Brentwood Family Health Center ("Brentwood").

In their complaints the family sought compensatory damages of $1,250,000 for pain and mental anguish suffered as a result of Brentwood's negligent diagnosis that Veronica had a sexually transmitted disease and their report to the child welfare authorities of possible child abuse.

In their motion for summary judgment, Brentwood argued that they were immune from any liability resultant from their report of suspected child abuse pursuant to R.C. 2151.421.

The family asserts two assignments of error, arguing that the statute does not afford such immunity when the claimed injuries are a result of misdiagnosis, or when the child abuse report is not based on "evidence of a wound, injury, disability, or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates abuse."

Summary judgment may be rendered only when, construing the evidence most strongly in favor of the party against whom the motion is made, there appears no genuine issue of any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Civ.R. 56(C); Williams v. First United Church of Christ (1974), 37 Ohio St.2d 150, 66 O.O.2d 311, 309 N.E.2d 924. Construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the facts of this case are as follows:

Maria Criswell took Veronica, then three and one-half years old, to Brentwood on October 29, 1986 because the child complained of an itch in her vaginal area and of abdominal pain. Veronica was examined by a physician who observed a yellow discharge in her vaginal area. The physician ordered cultures to determine if Veronica had a sexually transmitted disease, and ordered a topical medication for the itch. When developed, the cultures indicated that Veronica had a chlamydia infection. A Brentwood registered nurse called Maria Criswell to relay the test results. The nurse also informed Maria Criswell that child welfare authorities must be notified that Veronica was a possible victim of abuse. The nurse followed through and the authorities initiated an investigation.

The following day Veronica and the family presented themselves at Metro General Hospital for cultures. All of these cultures proved negative for chlamydia.

In their second assignment of error, which we look at first, the family argues that immunity protects the reporter of child abuse only when "(A)(1) No * * * physician * * * [or] registered nurse * * * who is acting in his official or professional capacity and knows or suspects that a child under eighteen years of age * * * has suffered any wound, injury, disability, or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates abuse or neglect of the child, shall recklessly fail immediately to report or cause reports to be made of that knowledge or suspicion to the children services board, the county department of human services exercising the children services function, or a municipal or county peace officer in the county in which the child resides or in which the abuse or neglect is occurring or has occurred.

specific types of evidence exist. R.C. 2151.421 states in pertinent part:

" * * *

"(G) Anyone or any hospital, institution, * * * or agency participating in the making of reports under this section, or anyone participating in a judicial proceeding resulting from the reports, shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability that otherwise might be incurred or imposed as a result of such actions. * * * "

The presence, in a young child, of a sexually transmitted disease is a commonly accepted indicator of sexual abuse. Thus, the diagnosis of a chlamydia infection is the type of condition for which the legislature mandates reporting to child welfare services. We hold that, as a matter of law, Brentwood is immune from liability resulting from their...

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  • High v. Howard
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • June 24, 1992
    ...physical consequences to his own person. Paugh v. Hanks (1983), 6 Ohio St.3d 72, 6 OBR 114, 451 N.E.2d 759; Criswell v. Brentwood Hosp. (1989), 49 Ohio App.3d 163, 551 N.E.2d 1315. Therefore, because appellants' claim does not arise out of such circumstances, they fail to state a claim for ......
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