Fields v. REGIONAL MED. CENTER ORANGEBURG, No. 3623.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtANDERSON, J.
Citation581 S.E.2d 489,354 S.C. 445
PartiesVergie W. FIELDS, Individually and as the Personal Representative of Thomas Edison Fields, Deceased, Appellant, v. REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER ORANGEBURG South Carolina and F. Simons Hane, M.D., Defendants, Of whom F. Simons Hane, M.D. is Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 3623.
Decision Date14 April 2003

354 S.C. 445
581 S.E.2d 489

Vergie W. FIELDS, Individually and as the Personal Representative of Thomas Edison Fields, Deceased, Appellant,
v.
REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER ORANGEBURG South Carolina and F. Simons Hane, M.D., Defendants,
Of whom F. Simons Hane, M.D. is Respondent

No. 3623.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard March 12, 2003.

Decided April 14, 2003.

Rehearing Denied June 12, 2003.


354 S.C. 448
J. Marvin Mullis, Jr., of Columbia, for Appellant

Julius W. McKay, II and Kathleen Devereaux Schultz, of Columbia, for Respondent.

ANDERSON, J.:

Vergie Fields brought an action individually and on behalf of her husband's estate against Orangeburg Regional Medical Center ("hospital") and Dr. Simons Hane for wrongful death and medical malpractice. Fields claimed the hospital and Hane were negligent and committed medical malpractice leading to her husband's death. During the trial, the circuit court excluded the testimony of one of Fields's experts regarding his credentials. Additionally, the circuit court refused to allow

354 S.C. 449
Fields to use a treatise to cross-examine Hane. Fields argues these are reversible errors which entitle her to a new trial. We reverse and remand for a new trial

FACTS/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 14, 1994, Thomas Fields called his wife, Vergie Fields, at her job and asked her to take him to the hospital because he was experiencing severe chest pains, which radiated down into both arms. Fields was a forty-nineyear-old smoker with a family history of heart disease. In 1976, Fields became disabled when he received severe injuries from falling at work. From 1976 to 1994, Fields suffered from a variety of physical and psychiatric ailments and made numerous trips to the emergency room at the hospital. He was hospitalized several times to treat his psychiatric problems during this period.

Fields had previously experienced bouts of chest pain. From 1981 until his death in 1994, the hospital performed fifteen EKGs on Fields. In 1993, Fields's doctor arranged a cardiac catheterization to evaluate whether Fields had coronary artery disease. The results were negative and were in Fields's files at the hospital's emergency room.

When Fields arrived at the hospital's emergency room on September 14, 1994, Dr. Fisher saw him. Fisher ran an EKG and ordered a chest X-Ray, which read normal. Fisher diagnosed Fields with gastrointestinal reflux and chronic back pain. Fisher prescribed Fields a G.I. cocktail, which was administered in the emergency room, and advised Fields to consult his family doctor. Before Fields left, he informed Fisher the G.I. cocktail had provided some relief. Fields saw his psychiatrist the same week and made an appointment to see his family physician the following week.

On September 18, 1994, Fields awoke during the early morning hours once again hurting from severe chest pain, which radiated down both arms. Fields went to the hospital's emergency room in the middle of the night where Hane examined him. When Fields arrived, he asked Hane for another G.I. cocktail. Fields was in so much pain on this occasion that he was sobbing. Hane ran an EKG and reviewed the results from the X-Ray and EKG from September

354 S.C. 450
14th as well as the other records contained within Fields's file, including the results of the 1993 catheterization. The hospital placed Fields on a heart monitor for approximately forty-five minutes to an hour. The monitor kept track of Fields's cardiac activity during that time, all of which appeared normal. Hane diagnosed Fields with histrionics and gastrointestinal pain. Fields received a G.I. cocktail and a shot of Vistaril and Nubain to treat the histrionics. Hane released Fields at 3:50 a.m. and instructed him to return to the emergency room if the condition persisted or worsened and to consult his family physician

When Fields and his wife left the hospital, his pain intensified one or two miles away from the hospital. They stopped for a drink at a gas station and decided to drive to the Palmetto Baptist Hospital in downtown Columbia, about fortyfive minutes away. When they reached Baptist, Vergie Fields informed the emergency room staff that she thought her husband was having a heart attack. The Baptist emergency physicians performed an EKG which confirmed Fields was having a heart attack. The cardiologist at Baptist decided not to treat Fields with clot buster drugs but instead had Fields transported by helicopter to Providence Hospital to have an emergency cardiac catheterization performed. While undergoing the procedure, one of Fields's coronary arteries dissected, a known risk of the procedure. He died shortly thereafter.

Vergie Fields brought a wrongful death suit against the hospital and Hane, contending they were negligent and committed medical malpractice by failing to admit Fields on September 18th. The case went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the hospital and Hane. Vergie Fields appeals, alleging the circuit court erred by not admitting testimony regarding the credentials of one of her expert witnesses and failing to allow her to use a treatise during Hane's cross-examination. After Vergie Fields filed this appeal, she reached a settlement with the hospital.

LAW/ANALYSIS

I. Expert Witness Qualifications

In order for a plaintiff to recover for medical malpractice, he must illustrate the physician failed to exercise the

354 S.C. 451
degree of care and skill which is ordinarily employed by the profession under similar conditions and like circumstances. Jernigan v. King, 312 S.C. 331, 333, 440 S.E.2d 379, 381 (Ct.App.1993); Bonaparte v. Floyd, 291 S.C. 427, 434, 354 S.E.2d 40, 45 (Ct.App.1987); Welch v. Whitaker, 282 S.C. 251, 258, 317 S.E.2d 758, 763 (Ct.App. 1984). This must be established by expert testimony unless the subject matter is of common knowledge or experience. Bramlette v. Charter-Med.-Columbia, 302 S.C. 68, 72, 393 S.E.2d 914, 916 (1990); Pederson v. Gould, 288 S.C. 141, 142, 341 S.E.2d 633, 634 (1986); Green v. Lilliewood, 272 S.C. 186, 192, 249 S.E.2d 910, 913 (1978); Bonaparte, 291 S.C. at 434, 354 S.E.2d at 45; 61 Am.Jur.2d Physicians, Surgeons § 318 (2002).

Qualification of an expert and the admission or exclusion of his testimony is a matter within the sound discretion of the trial court, whose decision will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion. Payton v. Kearse, 329 S.C. 51, 60-61, 495 S.E.2d 205, 211 (1998); Means v. Gates, 348 S.C. 161, 166, 558 S.E.2d 921, 923 (Ct.App.2001); Small v. Pioneer Mach, Inc., 329 S.C. 448, 469-70, 494 S.E.2d 835, 846 (Ct.App.1997). To warrant reversal, the appellant must prove both the error of the ruling and resulting prejudice. Burroughs v. Worsham, 352 S.C. 382, 391, 574 S.E.2d 215, 219 (Ct.App.2002). An abuse of discretion occurs when there is an error of law or factual conclusion that is without evidentiary support. Fontaine v. Peitz, 291 S.C. 536, 538, 354 S.E.2d 565, 566 (1987); Burroughs, 852 S.C. at 391, 574 S.E.2d at 219; Hedgepath v. Amer. Tel. & Tel. Co., 348 S.C. 340, 353, 559 S.E.2d 327, 334 (Ct.App.2001); Bayle v. South Carolina Dep't of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 128, 542 S.E.2d 736, 742 (Ct.App. 2001). A court's ruling on the admissibility of an expert's testimony constitutes an abuse of discretion where the ruling is manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair. Gates, 348 S.C. at 166, 558 S.E.2d at 924. The appellant must show prejudice for the Court of Appeals to reverse a judgment. Hanahan v. Simpson, 326 S.C. 140, 156, 485 S.E.2d 903, 911 (1997); Commerce Ctr. of Greenville v. W. Powers McElveen & Assocs., Inc., 347 S.C. 545, 559, 556 S.E.2d 718, 726 (Ct.App. 2001).

354 S.C. 452
To be competent as an expert, a witness must have acquired, by reason of study or experience, or both, such knowledge and skill in a business, profession, or science that he is better qualified than the fact finder to form an opinion. Gooding v. St. Francis Xavier Hosp., 326 S.C. 248, 252-53, 487 S.E.2d 596, 598 (1997); Ott v. Pittman, 320 S.C. 72, 76, 463 S.E.2d 101, 104 (Ct.App.1995); Hall v. Clarendon Outdoor Adver., Inc., 311 S.C. 185, 188, 428 S.E.2d 1, 2 (Ct.App.1993); Rule 702, SCRE ("If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise."). It is incumbent that the party offering the expert manifest that the witness possesses the necessary learning, skill, or practical experience to enable him to give opinion testimony. State v. Myers, 301 S.C. 251, 391 S.E.2d 551 (1990); Thomas Sand Co. v. Colonial Pipeline Co., 349 S.C. 402, 410-11, 563 S.E.2d 109, 113 (Ct.App.2002). The test is a relative one, depending on the particular witness's reference to the subject. Gooding, 326 S.C. at 253, 487 S.E.2d at 598; Lee v. Suess, 318 S.C. 283, 285, 457 S.E.2d 344, 346 (1995). An expert is not limited to any class of persons acting professionally. Gooding, 326 S.C. at 253, 487 S.E.2d at 598; Botehlo v. Bycura, 282 S.C. 578, 320 S.E.2d 59 (Ct.App. 1984). There is no exact requirement concerning how knowledge or skill must be acquired. Honea v. Prior, 295 S.C. 526, 369 S.E.2d 846 (Ct.App.1988).

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8 practice notes
  • Willis v. Wu, No. 25915.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 20, 2004
    ...797 (1993); Bramlette v. Charter-Medical-Columbia, 302 S.C. 68, 393 S.E.2d 914 (1990); Fields v. Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg, 354 S.C. 445, 581 S.E.2d 489 (Ct.App.2003); Daves v. Cleary, 355 S.C. 216, 584 S.E.2d 423 (Ct.App.2003). Thus, the analysis in a medical malpractice action......
  • Schmidt v. Courtney, No. 3719.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 22, 2003
    ...639 (1987); State v. Smith, 276 S.C. 494, 280 S.E.2d 200 (1981); Fields v. Regional Med. Ctr. Orangeburg, 354 S.C. 592 S.E.2d 322 445, 581 S.E.2d 489 (Ct.App.2003); State v. Mansfield, 343 S.C. 66, 538 S.E.2d 257 (Ct.App.2000); Balloon Plantation, Inc. v. Head Balloons, Inc., 303 S.C. 152, ......
  • Burton v. York County Sheriff's Dept., No. 3771.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 5, 2004
    ...introduced to show a party heard and acted upon information is not objectionable hearsay." Fields v. Regional Med. Ctr. Orangeburg, 354 S.C. 445, 454, 581 S.E.2d 489, 493 (Ct.App.2003); see also Webb v. Elrod, 308 S.C. 445, 449, 418 S.E.2d 559, 562 (Ct.App.1992) ("Proof of a statement intro......
  • Fields v. REGIONAL MEDICAL CTR. ORANGEBURG, No. 25939.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 14, 2005
    ...We granted the petition for a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' opinion in Fields v. Regional Medical Center Orangeburg, 354 S.C. 445, 581 S.E.2d 489 (Ct.App.2003). We affirm in part and reverse in FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Vergie Fields (Plaintiff) brought this wro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Willis v. Wu, No. 25915.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 20, 2004
    ...797 (1993); Bramlette v. Charter-Medical-Columbia, 302 S.C. 68, 393 S.E.2d 914 (1990); Fields v. Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg, 354 S.C. 445, 581 S.E.2d 489 (Ct.App.2003); Daves v. Cleary, 355 S.C. 216, 584 S.E.2d 423 (Ct.App.2003). Thus, the analysis in a medical malpractice action......
  • Schmidt v. Courtney, No. 3719.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 22, 2003
    ...639 (1987); State v. Smith, 276 S.C. 494, 280 S.E.2d 200 (1981); Fields v. Regional Med. Ctr. Orangeburg, 354 S.C. 592 S.E.2d 322 445, 581 S.E.2d 489 (Ct.App.2003); State v. Mansfield, 343 S.C. 66, 538 S.E.2d 257 (Ct.App.2000); Balloon Plantation, Inc. v. Head Balloons, Inc., 303 S.C. 152, ......
  • Burton v. York County Sheriff's Dept., No. 3771.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 5, 2004
    ...introduced to show a party heard and acted upon information is not objectionable hearsay." Fields v. Regional Med. Ctr. Orangeburg, 354 S.C. 445, 454, 581 S.E.2d 489, 493 (Ct.App.2003); see also Webb v. Elrod, 308 S.C. 445, 449, 418 S.E.2d 559, 562 (Ct.App.1992) ("Proof of a statement intro......
  • Fields v. REGIONAL MEDICAL CTR. ORANGEBURG, No. 25939.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 14, 2005
    ...We granted the petition for a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' opinion in Fields v. Regional Medical Center Orangeburg, 354 S.C. 445, 581 S.E.2d 489 (Ct.App.2003). We affirm in part and reverse in FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Vergie Fields (Plaintiff) brought this wro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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