Gitzhoffen v. Sisters of Holy Cross Hospital Ass'n, 1780

CourtSupreme Court of Utah
Writing for the CourtSTRAUP, J.
Citation88 P. 691,32 Utah 46
PartiesGITZHOFFEN v. SISTERS OF HOLY CROSS HOSPITAL ASS'N
Docket Number1780
Decision Date26 January 1907

88 P. 691

32 Utah 46

GITZHOFFEN
v.
SISTERS OF HOLY CROSS HOSPITAL ASS'N

No. 1780

Supreme Court of Utah

January 26, 1907


APPEAL from District Court, Third District; M. L. Ritchie, Judge.

Action by Frank Gitzhoffen against the Sisters of the Holy Cross Hospital Association. From a judgment in favor of defendant, plaintiff appeals.

REVERSED, AND NEW TRIAL GRANTED.

Kinney & Wilson and A. L. Hoppaugh for appellant.

APPELLANT'S POINTS.

According to all of the authorities a charitable institution is liable for personal negligence in selecting or retaining its nurses or other servants if their negligence results in injury to patients. (1 Clark & Marshall on Corporations, 646.) Speaking of charitable corporation it says: "Such a corporation is liable for the negligence or wrongful acts of its physicians, nurses or other employees to the same extent as any other private corporation, if it is guilty of negligence in employing or retaining them." (Glavin v. Rhode Island Hospital, 12 R. I. 411, 34 Am. Rep. 675. We assert that case can be found where a charitable institution has been held to be immune from its liability for the breach of a valid contract. (Harvard Law Review, vol. 9, pp. 542, 543. Ward v. St. Vincent Hospital, 57 N.Y.S. 784; Powers v. Homeopathic Hospital, 65 L. R. A. 372, 109 F. 294; McDonald v. Hospital, 120 Mass. 432, Donnelly v. Catholic Assn., 146 Mass. 166, 15 N.E. 505; Benton v. Hospital, 140 Mass. 13; Findley v. Salem, 137 Mass. 171; Howell v. Boston, 122 Mass. 344; Coe v. Washington Mills, 151 Mass. 315, 21 N.E. 966; Newcome v. Boston Protective Dept., 151 Mass. 215, 6 L. R. A. 778; Davis v. Society, 129 Mass. 367; Brown v. Societe, 138 Cal. 476, 71 P. 516.)

Howat & Macmillan for respondent.

RESPONDENT'S POINTS.

It is immaterial, as affecting the action of the court in directing a verdict for the defendant, that the court may not have given the best reason therefor; in fact it would be entirely immaterial if he had given a reason that did not justify his action. If the judgment or other act of the court is the correct judgment to render or the proper thing to do, the judgment or act is not erroneous because he may have given a wrong reason therefor. If the conclusion reached is the correct conclusion, it is of no consequence whether the reasoning by which the conclusion was reached is erroneous. (Mining Co. v. Mining Co., 29 Utah 490, 594; Kipp v. Clinger [Minn.], 106 N.W. 108, 110; Sullivan v. Iron Silver Mfg. Co., 143 U.S. 431; Dry Goods Co. v. Malcolm, 164 U.S. 483, 491-2; Moffat v. Smith, 101 F. 771; Whitney v. N.Y., etc., Co., 102 F. 850.)

The fact that patients who are able to pay are liable to do so, does not deprive the corporation of its eleemosynary character so as to render it liable for injuries to patients resulting from negligence of employees, providing it exercises due care in their selection. (McDonald v. Mass. Hospital, 120 Mass. 432; Girls Ind. Home v. Fritchey, 10 Mo.App. 344; Railroad v. Artist, 60 F. 365; Downes v. Harper Hospital [Mich.], 60 N.W. 42; German, etc., Home v. Hammerbacker, supra; Powers v. Mass. Homeop. Hosp., 109 F. 294; Atty. Gen. v. McCarthy [Australia], 11 Vict. L. 617.)

The following cases illustrate the rule exempting charitable corporations from liability for negligence of its employees, the extent of the exemption and the reasons therefor: Second v. Railroad, 18 F. 221; Railroad v. Artist, 60 F. 365; Powers v. Hospital, 101 F. 896, 898; Powers v. Hospital, 109 F. 294, 303, 304; McDonald v. Mass. Gen. Hospital, 120 Mass. 432; Boyd v. Insurance Patrol, 113 Pa. 269, 6 At. 536; Fire Insurance Patrol v. Boyd, 120 Pa. 624, 15 At. 553; Eighmy v. Railroad [Iowa], 61 N.W. 1056, 25 L. R. A. 200; Laubheim v. De Koininhlyke, 107 N.Y. 228; Laubheim v. Steamship Co. [N.Y.], 13 N.E. 781; Van Tassell v. Hospital, 5 N.Y.S. 620.

Where the court feels that it would be his duty to set aside a verdict if one was rendered for the party seeking to recover it is the duty of the court to take the case from the jury and direct a verdict. (Lacey v. Porter, 103 Cal. 597; Brown v. Potter [Colo.], 58 P. 785; Solomon v. Yrisarri [N. M.], 54 P. 752; Irwin v. Dole [Kan.], 52 P. 916.)

STRAUP, J. McCARTY, C. J., and FRICK, J., concur.

OPINION [88 P. 692]

[32 Utah 49] STRAUP, J.

1. This action was brought to recover damages alleged to have been sustained by plaintiff through defendant's negligence while he was an inmate of its hospital. It is alleged in the complaint that the defendant is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the state of Indiana, and was doing business in the state of Utah exclusively for profit; that the plaintiff, suffering from a purulent disease of the eyes called gonorrheal conjunctivitis, was received by the defendant at its hospital for treatment under a contract of hire, and for which the defendant was paid the sum of $ 41; that the plaintiff, with the knowledge and consent of the defendant, was in charge of his own physicians, who explained to the defendant and its nurses attending the plaintiff the nature of the disease and the necessity of carefully washing plaintiff's eyes every 20 minutes both night and day with an antiseptic solution prescribed and furnished by them so [32 Utah 50] as to remove every particle of accumulated pus from the eyes, and that, if the directions were not strictly followed, there was great danger of plaintiff becoming blind; that for the proper treatment of the plaintiff two nurses should have been and were agreed to be supplied by the defendant to attend him; that the defendant, in the presence of the plaintiff, promised and agreed to carry out the directions, as given by plaintiff's physicians, but negligently failed to carry out the directions and negligently placed the plaintiff in charge of but one nurse, who was incompetent and unable to care for the plaintiff; that the defendant and its nurses negligently failed and omitted to cleanse or wash plaintiff's eyes every 20 minutes, but did so only two or three times during the day, and wholly failed to do so during the nighttime; that the defendant negligently retained an incompetent and inefficient nurse to attend plaintiff, knowing her to be such, and knowing that she was neglecting and omitting to wash and cleanse plaintiff's eyes in accordance with the directions; and that in consequence of all of which the plaintiff was rendered substantially blind.

The defendant in its answer admitted and alleged that it is a corporation organized under the laws of Indiana for the purpose of establishing, maintaining, and conducting hospitals for the treatment of sick, wounded, and injured persons, with authority to do so, and that in pursuance of such authority the defendant established a hospital at Salt Lake City, Utah, for the treatment of such persons, but alleged that the hospital was conducted by the defendant solely as a charitable institution, and not for profit; that the plaintiff, an indigent person receiving support and medical attention from the county of Salt Lake "was placed in its hospital as such indigent person, and was not under any contract or agreement, except with said county; and said plaintiff remained in said hospital of this defendant for a period of 41 days, and for the board, lodging, care, treatment and nursing of the plaintiff during said 41 days said defendant was paid by said county the sum of $ 41," all of which was used and expended by the defendant in the support and maintenance [32 Utah 51] of the hospital, and for the care and board of its inmates, including the plaintiff. It denied all the alleged acts of negligence and alleged that the impairment of plaintiff's sight wholly resulted from the nature of the disease, and not from any fault or negligence on the part of the defendant.

The evidence on the part of the plaintiff tended to show that, about the 18th day of July, 1903, the plaintiff, suffering from a disease of the eyes, consulted a physician and obtained medicine from him which he, with the help of others, applied to his eyes for several days. He then consulted Dr. Odell, the assistant county physician, who gave him a solution to be applied to his eyes every 20 minutes. This treatment was continued by him for five or six days. Up to this time the plaintiff was Dr. Odell's private patient. Dr. Odell endeavored to obtain financial aid from plaintiff's relatives in the East, in order that the plaintiff might be properly cared for and treated; but, being unable to obtain the aid, he spoke to Dr. Mayo, the county physician, concerning plaintiff's condition. Arrangements were made by which the plaintiff was sent to the defendant's hospital. Dr. Mayo instructed Dr. Odell to take charge of and look after the case. The plaintiff was taken to the hospital in the afternoon of a Saturday, the 25th day of July, and was received by the Sister Superior, the general manager of the hospital, and who exercised a general supervision over all the nurses in attendance at the hospital, and whose duty it was to see that the nurses took proper care of the patients. The plaintiff was placed in one of the wards in charge of a nurse of the defendant. The next morning Dr. La Motte, an oculist who was summoned at the request of Dr. Odell, in the presence of the nurse and Dr. Odell, examined plaintiff's eyes, and found that plaintiff was suffering in both eyes from a disease called gonorrheal conjunctivitis nin the [88 P. 693] second, or purulent, stage. At the request of Dr. Odell the oculist explained to the nurse the nature of the disease, the necessity of removing every particle of pus from the eyes every 20 minutes in order to prevent the formation of ulcers on the cornea of the eye, and that if it was not so done there was great danger of corneal [32 Utah 52] ulcers and perforation of the cornea, which would cause total blindness. He showed the nurse how to cleanse and wash the eyes with...

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18 practice notes
  • DeBry v. Noble, Nos. 920377
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • January 27, 1995
    ...to governmental immunity, charitable enterprises enjoyed immunity from tort liability. Gitzhoffen v. Sisters of Holy Cross Hosp. Ass'n, 32 Utah 46, 88 P. 691 (1907). Other immunities protected members of a family from tort actions by other members of the family. Forsman v. Forsman, 779 P.2d......
  • Sessions v. Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital Ass'n, 5907
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 25, 1938
    ...by evidence aliunde the articles [of incorporation] is an open question in this state ( Gitzhoffen v. Sisters of Holy Cross Hospital Ass'n, 32 Utah 46, 88 P. 691, 695, 8 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1161), and one on which there may be diversity of opinion. Incidentally, this latter will be involved in......
  • Wilcox v. Idaho Falls Latter Day Saints Hospital, 6484
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • June 23, 1938
    ...may be made by an introduction of a certified copy of its articles of incorporation. (Gitzhoffen v. Sisters of Holy Cross Hospital Assn., 32 Utah 46, 88 P. 691, 8 L. R. A., N. S., 1161; Brown v. St. Luke's Hospital Assn., 85 Colo. 167, 274 P. 740; Southern Methodist Hospital and Santitorium......
  • Koehler v. Ohio Valley General Hospital Ass'n, No. 795
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 22, 1952
    ...126 So. 465, 67 A.L.R. 1116; Rudy v. Lakeside Hospital, 115 Ohio St. 539, 155 N.E. 126; Gitzhoffen v. Sisters of Holy Cross Hospital Ass'n, 32 Utah 46, 88 P. 691, 8 L.R.A.,N.S., 1161; Weston's Adm'x v. Hospital of St. Vincent of Paul, 131 Va. 587, 107 S.E. 785, 23 A.L.R. 907; Bishop Randall......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • DeBry v. Noble, Nos. 920377
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • January 27, 1995
    ...to governmental immunity, charitable enterprises enjoyed immunity from tort liability. Gitzhoffen v. Sisters of Holy Cross Hosp. Ass'n, 32 Utah 46, 88 P. 691 (1907). Other immunities protected members of a family from tort actions by other members of the family. Forsman v. Forsman, 779 P.2d......
  • Sessions v. Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital Ass'n, 5907
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 25, 1938
    ...by evidence aliunde the articles [of incorporation] is an open question in this state ( Gitzhoffen v. Sisters of Holy Cross Hospital Ass'n, 32 Utah 46, 88 P. 691, 695, 8 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1161), and one on which there may be diversity of opinion. Incidentally, this latter will be involved in......
  • Wilcox v. Idaho Falls Latter Day Saints Hospital, 6484
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • June 23, 1938
    ...may be made by an introduction of a certified copy of its articles of incorporation. (Gitzhoffen v. Sisters of Holy Cross Hospital Assn., 32 Utah 46, 88 P. 691, 8 L. R. A., N. S., 1161; Brown v. St. Luke's Hospital Assn., 85 Colo. 167, 274 P. 740; Southern Methodist Hospital and Santitorium......
  • Koehler v. Ohio Valley General Hospital Ass'n, No. 795
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 22, 1952
    ...126 So. 465, 67 A.L.R. 1116; Rudy v. Lakeside Hospital, 115 Ohio St. 539, 155 N.E. 126; Gitzhoffen v. Sisters of Holy Cross Hospital Ass'n, 32 Utah 46, 88 P. 691, 8 L.R.A.,N.S., 1161; Weston's Adm'x v. Hospital of St. Vincent of Paul, 131 Va. 587, 107 S.E. 785, 23 A.L.R. 907; Bishop Randall......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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