Jean-Pierre v. Plantation Homes Crittenden

Decision Date14 November 2002
Docket NumberNo. 02-217.,02-217.
Citation350 Ark. 569,89 S.W.3d 337
PartiesAntoine JEAN-PIERRE. M.D. v. PLANTATION HOMES OF CRITTENDEN COUNTY, INC., d/b/a Southwoods Long Term Residential Care Facility.
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell, by: Bruce A. McMullen and Robert L. Moore, Memphis, TN, for appellant.

Shackleford, Phillips, Wineland & Ratcliff, P.A., by: Dennis L. Shackleford, El Dorado, for appellee.

TOM GLAZE, Justice.

Southwoods Residential Care Facility is a long-term residential care facility for the treatment and housing of mentally handicapped patients. The estate of Mary Mills (hereinafter Mills) sued Southwoods after a patient, Haywood Wilder, left the facility on January 12, 1996, stole a car, and crashed into Mills's vehicle head-on, killing her. After a number of amended complaints, Mills also sued Behavioral Health Services1 ("BHS"), the company that provided doctors and psychiatric treatment to Southwoods' patients. Mills's complaint alleged that BHS was negligent for failing to take appropriate steps to control Wilder, despite its recognition that he posed a high risk for dangerous actions, and that Southwoods was negligent in failing to maintain control over Wilder and in admitting him to its facility without adequately evaluating the degree of risk he posed.

Southwoods subsequently filed a third-party complaint against Dr. Antoine Jean-Pierre, the psychiatrist who had been treating Wilder, alleging that he failed to take necessary steps to have Wilder placed in a more appropriate care facility. Further, Southwoods alleged that Dr. Jean— Pierre was negligent in his care and treatment of Wilder, and that any damages or injuries suffered by Mills were caused by the negligence or breach of contract by Dr. Jean-Pierre. The complaint sought indemnity and contribution from Dr. Jean— Pierre, in the event Southwoods was determined to have any liability to Mills's estate. Southwoods also filed a cross-claim against BHS, alleging that BHS had been negligent and that Southwoods was also entitled to indemnification from BHS. BHS filed a timely answer to Southwoods' cross-claim.

Dr. Jean-Pierre, however, never filed an answer to Southwoods' third-party complaint against him. Instead, he filed a motion to dismiss the third-party complaint ten days after his answer would have been due. Southwoods filed a motion for default judgment against Dr. Jean-Pierre, seeking an order that the doctor was liable for contribution and indemnity to Southwoods for any and all losses or judgments rendered against Southwoods, and deeming all allegations of the third-party complaint admitted and true for all purposes. The trial court granted Southwoods' motion for default judgment.

Dr. Jean-Pierre filed a motion to set aside the default judgment. In support of his motion, he argued that Southwoods' third-party complaint filed against Dr. Jean-Pierre contained the same allegations of negligence as incorporated in Mills's original complaint. "Clearly," he stated, "Southwoods' third-party complaint is simply an extension of [Mills's] complaint in that, if Southwoods is found liable, Southwoods claims that any liability was caused by the negligence of Dr. Jean— Pierre. Therefore, the same allegations are contained in [Mills's] complaint and Southwoods' third-party complaint. Southwoods' answer to [Mills's] complaint contains a general denial of negligence, which inures to the benefit of Dr. Jean— Pierre."

Southwoods eventually settled the claims filed by Mills, agreeing to pay the estate $775,000.00. Subsequently, the trial court held a bench trial to determine whether the settlement was made in good faith and for a reasonable amount under the circumstances. The court made a ruling prior to trial that Dr. Jean-Pierre was limited to challenging the amount of damages and was foreclosed from presenting evidence intended to defeat Southwoods' cause of action, because Dr. Jean-Pierre's liability had already been established by the default judgment. At the conclusion of the trial, the court entered an order finding that the settlement was based on good-faith negotiations, was made at arm's length, and was reasonable, based upon the potential exposure. Therefore, the trial court concluded that Southwoods was entitled to recover from Dr. Jean-Pierre the amount of $775,000.00,2 plus attorneys' fees and costs amounting to $191,678.19.

For his first point on appeal, Dr. Jean-Pierre asserts that the trial court erred in entering a default judgment against him, because the answer filed by BHS to Southwoods' cross-claim inured to his benefit. However, we conclude that this issue is not preserved for appeal. At trial, in his motion to set aside the default judgment, Dr. Jean-Pierre raised a different argument. In that motion, the doctor argued that he should be able to rely on the "common defense doctrine" because Southwoods had filed an answer to the original complaint, filed by Mills. Specifically, the doctor stated as follows:

In the case at bar, the defendant, Southwoods, answered the complaint of the plaintiff by asserting a general denial of all allegations contained in the complaint. Southwoods' third-party complaint filed against Dr. Jean-Pierre contained the same allegations of negligence as incorporated in the plaintiff's complaint. Clearly, Southwoods' third-party complaint is simply an extension of the plaintiff's complaint in that, if Southwoods is found liable, Southwoods claims that any liability was caused by the negligence of Dr. Jean-Pierre. Therefore, the same allegations are contained in the plaintiffs complaint and Southwoods' third-party complaint. Southwoods' answer to [Mills's] complaint contains a general denial of negligence, which inures to the benefit of Dr. Jean-Pierre.

(Emphasis added.)

On appeal, however, Dr. Jean-Pierre argues that Behavioral Health Services filed an answer to Southwoods' cross-claim against it, and because the allegations of negligence raised in that cross-claim were "virtually identical" to the allegations raised in the third-party complaint, BHS's answer should inure to his benefit. Clearly, the argument raised on appeal was not raised below. It is well-settled that this court will not consider arguments raised for the first time on appeal. See, e.g., Laird v. Shelnut, 348 Ark. 632, 74 S.W.3d 206 (2002); Hurst v. Holland, 347 Ark. 235, 61 S.W.3d 180 (2001); Ghegan & Ghegan, Inc. v. Barclay, 345 Ark. 514, 49 S.W.3d 652 (2001); B.A.R. Enterprises, Inc. v. Palin Mfg. Co., 312 Ark. 500, 850 S.W.2d 322 (1993).

For his second point on appeal, Dr. Jean-Pierre argues that the trial court erred in awarding Southwoods the amount of $775,000 for default damages when Southwoods failed to prove it was liable to the original plaintiff. Particularly, he maintains that Southwoods had the burden of proving its liability to the original plaintiff, Mills, and that Southwoods failed to meet this burden.

This court has repeatedly held that a default judgment establishes liability, although not the extent of damages. Tharp v. Smith, 326 Ark. 260, 930 S.W.2d 350 (1996); Byrd v. Dark, 322 Ark. 640, 911 S.W.2d 572 (1995); B & F Engineering v. Cotroneo, 309 Ark. 175, 830 S.W.2d 835 (1992). Under Ark. R. Civ. P. 8(d), averments in a pleading to which a responsive pleading is required, other than those as to the amount of damage, are admitted when not denied. Clark v. Michael Motor Co., 322 Ark. 570, 910 S.W.2d 697 (1995).

Here, Southwoods' third-party complaint alleged that Dr. Jean-Pierre was negligent, and it also alleged that Southwoods was entitled to indemnification from the doctor. Thus, by defaulting, Dr. Jean-Pierre admitted the truth of Southwoods' allegations and therefore admitted that he was liable to Southwoods, because the default judgment established liability. Stated another way, Dr. Jean-Pierre's admission of liability to indemnify Southwoods for the damages it incurred as a result of Dr. Jean-Pierre's conduct is the liability that was established by default judgment. Further, although Dr. Jean— Pierre asserts that he proffered evidence that he adhered to the applicable standard of care in treating Haywood Wilder, this court has held that a defaulting defendant may not introduce evidence to defeat the plaintiffs cause of action. See Polselli v. Aulgur, 328 Ark. 111, 942 S.W.2d 832 (1997); B & F Engineering, Inc. v. Cotroneo, 309 Ark. 175, 830 S.W.2d 835 (1992).

Dr. Jean-Pierre also argues that Southwoods settled its suit voluntarily, and that one cannot seek indemnification for sums paid voluntarily. However, it is clear that Southwoods' settlement with Mills was not "voluntary," because Southwoods faced a tremendous amount of exposure in the event the matter went to...

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12 cases
  • Volunteer Transport, Inc. v. House
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • April 29, 2004
    ...defendant may challenge on appeal the sufficiency of the evidence to support the amount of damages awarded. Jean—Pierre v. Plantation Homes, 350 Ark. 569, 89 S.W.3d 337 (2002). Here, the only evidence offered to prove the nature, extent, and permanency of appellee's injury was his own self-......
  • Young v. Barbera
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • April 13, 2006
    ...damages. Volunteer Transport, Inc. v. House, 357 Ark. 95, 162 S.W.3d 456 (2004) (emphasis added); Jean-Pierre v. Plantation Homes of Crittenden County, Inc., 350 Ark. 569, 89 S.W.3d 337 (2002). In this state, a hearing is required after default in order to establish damages, and the plainti......
  • Vent v. Johnson
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • February 26, 2009
    ...and to question on appeal the sufficiency of the evidence to support the amount of damages awarded. See Jean-Pierre v. Plantation Homes, 350 Ark. 569, 89 S.W.3d 337 (2002). However, on appeal, Vent does not challenge the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiffs 5. The circuit court did n......
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