Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v. Baldi, No. 14–1547.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtHECHT, Justice.
PartiesESTATE OF Paul Dedrick GRAY by Brenna Marie GRAY, Administrator of the Estate, and Brenna Marie Gray, Individually and on Behalf of O.D.G., Minor Child of Paul Dedrick Gray and Brenna Marie Gray, Appellants, v. Daniel J. BALDI ; Daniel J. Baldi, D.O., P.C.; United Anesthesia & Pain Control, P.C.; Central Iowa Hospital Corporation; Iowa Health Pain Management Clinic; Iowa Health System; UnityPoint Health; Broadlawns Medical Center Foundation; and Broadlawns Medical Center, Appellees.
Decision Date06 May 2016
Docket NumberNo. 14–1547.

880 N.W.2d 451

ESTATE OF Paul Dedrick GRAY by Brenna Marie GRAY, Administrator of the Estate, and Brenna Marie Gray, Individually and on Behalf of O.D.G., Minor Child of Paul Dedrick Gray and Brenna Marie Gray, Appellants,
v.
Daniel J. BALDI ; Daniel J. Baldi, D.O., P.C.; United Anesthesia & Pain Control, P.C.; Central Iowa Hospital Corporation; Iowa Health Pain Management Clinic; Iowa Health System; UnityPoint Health; Broadlawns Medical Center Foundation; and Broadlawns Medical Center, Appellees.

No. 14–1547.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

May 6, 2016.


880 N.W.2d 453

Bruce H. Stoltze of Stoltze & Updegraff, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellants.

Eric G. Hoch, Connie L. Diekema, and Erik P. Bergeland of Finley, Alt, Smith, Scharnberg, Craig, Hilmes & Gaffney, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees Daniel J. Baldi; Daniel J. Baldi, D.O., P.C.; United Anesthesia & Pain Control, P.C.; Broadlawns Medical Center Foundation; and Broadlawns Medical Center.

Barry G. Vermeer, Loree A. Nelson, and Sarah K. Grotha of Gislason & Hunter LLP, Des Moines, for appellees Central Iowa Hospital Corporation, Iowa Health System, and UnityPoint Health.

HECHT, Justice.

In this wrongful-death case, Paul Gray's surviving spouse and daughter allege Dr. Daniel Baldi and several Iowa healthcare providers negligently treated Paul during his struggle with substance abuse. The district court concluded the plaintiffs brought suit after the applicable statutes of limitations expired and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. On appeal, we conclude the district court's ruling was partially erroneous. We hold a

880 N.W.2d 454

child conceived but not yet born at the time of their parent's death can bring a parental consortium claim after the child is born. However, we do not decide whether the discovery rule can extend the time to file wrongful-death claims under Iowa Code section 614.1(9)(a ) (2009), because we conclude even if it can, the wrongful-death and spousal consortium claims were untimely under the circumstances presented here. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's summary judgment ruling in part, reverse it in part, and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

In December 2005, Paul Gray began receiving care from Dr. Baldi, an addiction medicine and pain management specialist. Dr. Baldi knew Paul struggled with substance abuse, and his treatment of Paul involved examinations, diagnoses, and prescriptions of various medications. Paul's wife, Brenna Gray, often attended appointments with Paul and communicated with Dr. Baldi regarding his treatment.

On May 24, 2010, Paul passed away. For purposes of this appeal, the parties agree Paul died from an overdose or lethal combination of medications. However, the record does not reveal specifically which medication or medications caused or contributed to the death, nor does it establish whether Dr. Baldi prescribed them.1 Brenna was pregnant at the time of Paul's death and gave birth to a daughter, O.D.G., several months later. Brenna was subsequently appointed administrator of Paul's estate.

On February 14, 2014, Brenna filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Dr. Baldi, United Anesthesia and Pain Control, Central Iowa Hospital Corporation, Iowa Health Pain Management Clinic, Iowa Health System, UnityPoint Health, Broadlawns Medical Center, and Broadlawns Medical Center Foundation (collectively Baldi). The petition alleged Baldi breached the standard of care in prescribing, managing, and dispensing medications for Paul, and negligently failed to supervise or monitor Paul's progress. The petition listed three plaintiffs asserting three different claims: Paul's estate asserting wrongful death, Brenna asserting a loss of spousal consortium, and O.D.G. asserting a loss of parental consortium (collectively Gray).

Baldi filed an answer and a simultaneous motion for summary judgment, contending each of Gray's claims was time-barred. The wrongful-death and spousal consortium claims, Baldi asserted, were filed more than two years after May 24, 2010—the date “on which the claimant knew, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have known” of Paul's death. Iowa Code § 614.1(9)(a ) ; see Schultze v. Landmark Hotel Corp., 463 N.W.2d 47, 49 (Iowa 1990) (“[M]alpractice actions for wrongful death must be brought within two years after the claimant knew of the death.”). Furthermore, Baldi asserted O.D.G.'s parental consortium claim was untimely because it too was filed more than two years after Paul's death and O.D.G.

880 N.W.2d 455

was ineligible for the tolling provision in Iowa Code section 614.1(9)(b ). See Iowa Code § 614.1(9)(b ) (providing actions arising out of medical care and “brought on behalf of a minor who was under the age of eight years when the act, omission, or occurrence alleged in the action occurred shall be commenced no later than the minor's tenth birthday”). Baldi contended O.D.G. was not a “minor” at the time of Paul's death, and she was therefore ineligible for protection under the statute.

In resisting Baldi's motion for summary judgment, Gray asserted our decision in Rathje v. Mercy Hospital, 745 N.W.2d 443 (Iowa 2008), significantly changed the analytical framework of the discovery rule under section 614.1(9). In Rathje, we concluded “our legislature intended the medical malpractice statute of limitations to commence upon actual or imputed knowledge of both the injury and its cause in fact.” Id. at 461 (emphasis added). Gray supported the resistance to the motion with Brenna's affidavit stating that to the best of her “knowledge, recollection, understanding[,] and belief,” she did not discover Baldi might have caused or contributed to Paul's death until less than two years before the petition was filed. Gray contended summary judgment was therefore inappropriate because the claims for wrongful death and loss of spousal consortium were timely under the discovery rule explicated in Rathje.

Baldi presented a twofold response. First, he asserted the holding in Rathje controls the discovery rule analysis in injury—but not death—cases. This distinction is significant, Baldi contended, because this court previously noted differences between wrongful-death claims and claims for nonfatal injuries. See Schultze, 463 N.W.2d at 50 (“[T]he fact that a death has occurred provides the plaintiff with the starting point to determine whether a valid cause of action for wrongful death exists.”). Second, Baldi asserted, even if the discovery rule announced in Rathje is applied in this wrongful-death case, summary judgment should be granted because as a matter of law Gray knew or should have known of a causal connection between Paul's death and Baldi's care before February 14, 2012. Cf. Swartzendruber v. Schimmel, 613 N.W.2d 646, 651 (Iowa 2000) (applying the discovery rule in a workers' compensation case but nonetheless finding the claim untimely as a matter of law). Specifically, Baldi (the collective defendants) contended Brenna's sworn deposition and trial testimony during a criminal prosecution the state filed against Dr. Baldi (the individual) established two propositions justifying summary judgment: first, Brenna harbored concerns about Paul's consumption of prescription medications and Baldi's treatment even before the date of Paul's death; and second, Brenna knew in January 2012 that Baldi's treatment may have been connected with Paul's death because she met at that time with a state investigator developing an administrative case against Dr. Baldi.

The district court granted the motion for summary judgment in its entirety. Gray appealed the summary judgment ruling and we retained the appeal.

II. Scope of Review.

“We review a district court ruling granting a motion for summary judgment for correction of errors at law.” Rathje, 745 N.W.2d at 447. “We ... view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and will grant that party all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the record.” Cawthorn v. Catholic Health Initiatives Iowa Corp., 806 N.W.2d 282, 286 (Iowa 2011).

880 N.W.2d 456

III. The Parties' Positions.

A. Gray. Gray acknowledges our decision in Schultze is a major obstacle for the wrongful-death and spousal consortium claims. See Schultze, 463 N.W.2d at 49 (concluding section 614.1(9) “communicates that malpractice actions for wrongful death must be brought within two years after the claimant knew of the death”). However, Gray points out our intervening decision in Rathje “departs from the direction we have taken in our prior cases” concerning nonfatal medical injuries and applies the discovery rule to toll the limitations period until the plaintiff knows or should know the physical harm and its factual cause. Rathje, 745 N.W.2d at 463. Therefore, according to Gray, our analysis in Schultze has been undermined and we should apply the Rathje rationale uniformly to both wrongful-death claims and nonfatal injuries. If we do not, Gray contends, the disparate treatment of wrongful-death and nonfatal injury claims violates equal protection.

On the second issue, Gray asserts O.D.G.'s loss-of-consortium claim was timely filed because a fetus in...

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14 practice notes
  • Schmidt v. State, No. 15-1408
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 23, 2018
    ...why he changed his story.Just two years ago, in Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v. Baldi , we applied the "contradictory affidavit rule." 880 N.W.2d 451, 463–64 (Iowa 2016). Under this rule, an affidavit that contradicts prior sworn testimony does not create an issue of fact if it "clearly and ......
  • Plowman v. Fort Madison Cmty. Hosp., No. 15-0974
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 2, 2017
    ...a district court ruling granting a motion for summary judgment for correction of errors at law." Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v. Baldi , 880 N.W.2d 451, 455 (Iowa 2016) (quoting Rathje v. Mercy Hosp. , 745 N.W.2d 443, 447 (Iowa 2008) ). "Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genui......
  • Susie v. Family Health Care of Siouxland, P.L.C., No. 17-0908
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 12, 2020
    ...that the causal connection was speculative. In Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v. Baldi , we adopted the "contradictory affidavit rule." 880 N.W.2d 451, 463 (Iowa 2016). Under this rule, we will reject an affidavit that directly contradicts prior testimony unless the affiant provides a reasonab......
  • Honomichl v. Valley View Swine, LLC, No. 16-1006
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 22, 2018
    ...a district court ruling granting a motion for summary judgment for correction of errors at law." Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v. Baldi , 880 N.W.2d 451, 455 (Iowa 2016) (quoting Rathje v. Mercy Hosp. , 745 N.W.2d 443, 447 (Iowa 2008) ). "Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genui......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Schmidt v. State, No. 15-1408
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 23, 2018
    ...why he changed his story.Just two years ago, in Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v. Baldi , we applied the "contradictory affidavit rule." 880 N.W.2d 451, 463–64 (Iowa 2016). Under this rule, an affidavit that contradicts prior sworn testimony does not create an issue of fact if it "clearly and ......
  • Plowman v. Fort Madison Cmty. Hosp., No. 15-0974
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 2, 2017
    ...a district court ruling granting a motion for summary judgment for correction of errors at law." Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v. Baldi , 880 N.W.2d 451, 455 (Iowa 2016) (quoting Rathje v. Mercy Hosp. , 745 N.W.2d 443, 447 (Iowa 2008) ). "Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genui......
  • Susie v. Family Health Care of Siouxland, P.L.C., No. 17-0908
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 12, 2020
    ...that the causal connection was speculative. In Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v. Baldi , we adopted the "contradictory affidavit rule." 880 N.W.2d 451, 463 (Iowa 2016). Under this rule, we will reject an affidavit that directly contradicts prior testimony unless the affiant provides a reasonab......
  • Honomichl v. Valley View Swine, LLC, No. 16-1006
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 22, 2018
    ...a district court ruling granting a motion for summary judgment for correction of errors at law." Estate of Gray ex rel. Gray v. Baldi , 880 N.W.2d 451, 455 (Iowa 2016) (quoting Rathje v. Mercy Hosp. , 745 N.W.2d 443, 447 (Iowa 2008) ). "Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genui......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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