Palmer v. Biloxi Regional Medical Center, Inc.

Decision Date25 April 1990
Docket NumberNo. 07-CA-58671,07-CA-58671
Citation564 So.2d 1346
PartiesPaul C. PALMER and Marilyn J. Palmer, Individually and in Their Official Capacity as Heirs and Representatives of the Surviving Heirs of Patricia Leanne Palmer v. BILOXI REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, INC., d/b/a Howard Memorial Hospital and its Successors and Assigns, and Frank Martin, M.D., and James W. Wooten, M.D., and John and Jane Does 105 (a Fictitious Name).
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Charles R. McRae, Margaret P. Ellis, McRae & Ellis, Pascagoula, for appellants.

Frederick J. Mannino, Page Mannino & Peresich, Biloxi, Robert C. Galloway, Galloway & Galloway, Gulfport, for appellees.

Before DAN M. LEE, P.J., and PRATHER and ROBERTSON, JJ.

PRATHER, Justice, for the Court:

I. INTRODUCTION 1

On March 30, 1983, Paul and Marilyn Palmer [hereinafter Palmer] filed a complaint in the Harrison County Circuit Court alleging that the negligence of Biloxi Regional Medical Center [hereinafter BRMC], Frank Martin, M.D., and James Wooten, D.D.S., 2 was the proximate cause of the death of their daughter, Patricia Palmer [hereinafter Patricia]. Martin was voluntarily dismissed by Palmer. 3 Palmer sought $1.8 million in compensatory damages, $500,000 in punitive damages, costs, and interest.

On February 13, 1986, Wooten moved for dismissal of the suit under Rule 56 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure [hereinafter Rule or Rules]; BRMC moved for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 37 on October 18, 1983, and June 24, 1986, respectively. After hearings on all the motions, Circuit Court Judge James E. Thomas dismissed the suit against Wooten and BRMC. Palmer subsequently appealed the dismissal to this Court.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND 4

A. Pre-Complaint

On April 4, 1981, seventeen-year-old Patricia Palmer was seriously injured in an automobile accident; she was subsequently admitted to the intensive care unit of Biloxi Regional Medical Center 5 and placed under the primary care of neurosurgeon, Dr. Richard Buckley. Consultants employed by Buckley included Martin, who is a general surgeon, and Wooten, who is an oral surgeon. Wooten was employed solely and specifically to treat a fractured mandible (lower jaw).

On April 6, 1981--after Patricia's neurological condition stabilized--Buckley advised Wooten that the time was ripe to place Patricia under general anesthesia and perform the "nonelective" surgery to repair her fractured jaw. Postponement beyond April 8, according to Buckley, would not be "in Patricia's best interest." Wooten performed the surgery without complication on April 7 and 8, 1981. Patricia died of cardiopulmonary arrest 6 on April 11. Buckley noted on the "discharge summary" that the cause of the arrest was "[u]ndetermined, pending results of autopsy."

An autopsy was performed by Dr. Eldon McClain, a pathologist at BRMC. McClain summarized the autopsy diagnoses:

[Patricia] was admitted shortly following an automobile accident at which time she was noted to have bruises, abrasions and cranial fracture. She had initially shown loss of consciousness but neurologic function appeared to be intact. She underwent operative repair of the mandibular fracture on the fourth hospital day. On the seventh hospital day there was an unexpected cardiac arrest. Resuscitative attempts resulted in reestablishment of cardiac function. However, neurologic function was that of a total coma. The patient was maintained on a respirator for about sixteen hours following arrest during which time no neurologic function was discernible. After this time, support measures were discontinued and the patient was pronounced dead.

The autopsy demonstrated the multiple injuries suffered in the automobile accident. These included the bilateral basilar skull fracture, abrasions and bruises of the left arm, thigh and head. There were multiple internal contusion injuries. These included multiple small areas of submeningeal injury with congestion and hemorrhage in the right frontal lobe, subpleural contusion injuries of the left lung base and small areas of injury beneath the capsules of the spleen and left lobe of the liver. No clear cause of the cardiac arrest was determined. Cerebral swelling and edema occurred primarily due to the anoxic damage suffered during the arrest, but was perhaps in part related to the original injury. Left pleural effusion with some blood staining was in part due to the original injury but this along with pulmonary congestion and edema were also terminal changes. The remaining findings at autopsy are considered incidental and are listed [elsewhere in the report]. (emphasis added).

Notably, the death certificate--signed by an individual other than McClain--states that Patricia died of cardiopulmonary arrest due to a stress ulcer. 7 The detailed autopsy report, however, concluded that "[n]o actual ulcerations [were] found" in the gastrointestinal tract.

B. The Complaint

On March 30, 1983, Palmer filed a negligence action against BRMC, Martin, and Wooten. With regard to Martin and Wooten, Palmer alleged:

... that [they] were in charge of treating [Patricia] and making [the] diagnosis as to her illness and injuries[;]

... that in their examination, treatment, supervision of treatment and surgery of the decedent for her ... physical condition, negligently failed to exercise ordinary care and failed to exercise the degree of care and skill exercised by the physician and surgeon in like cases by failing to diagnose and treat the stress ulcer [alleged by Palmer to have caused Patricia's cardiopulmonary arrest], let the stress ulcer go unattended and further by failing to exercise that care due surgeons in like cases for her ... injuries[;]

... that [they] hold themselves out to warrant successfull [sic] treatment and to warrant their skills as to be skills which would successfully treat [Patricia;]

... that [they] failed to disclose information necessary to have [Patricia and her] parents ... be informed so that mature judgments could be made in the alternative[;]

... that [they] failed to inform [Patricia and her parents] of their inability to perform the certain diagnosis and treatments of [Patricia] and failed to call in the necessary personnel to treat [Patricia].

With regard to BRMC, Palmer alleged:

... [BRMC] holds itself out ... as a hospital skilled in caring for people who need medical care and attention[;]

... that its staff, agents, servants, and employees negligently failed to exercise ordinary care and failed to exercise that degree of care and skill commonly exercised by institutions of like kind[;]

... that they [BRMC's staff, agents, servants, and employees] allowed [Patricia] to become in an irreversable [sic] situation by failing to properly supervise her treatment, getting the ... necessary care and skilled personnel to treat [Patricia] thereby causing [her] to expire and terminate on or about April 11, 1981.

Palmer sought $1.8 million in compensatory damages, $500,000 in punitive damages, costs, and interest. As stated, Martin was dismissed voluntarily by Palmer.

C. Discovery

The same day on which the complaint was filed, Palmer propounded interrogatories to, and requested production of documents from, Wooten and BRMC. Exchanges between Palmer and the two defendants--e.g., motions, responses, and other matters pertaining to discovery--will be discussed separately.

1. Palmer v. Wooten

Wooten answered Palmer's complaint on April 27, 1983. Basically, Wooten contends that his sole responsibility was to "render certain treatment to a fracture of the mandible or jawbone and that he was at no time responsible for or undertook overall care or treatment or examination of Patricia." On May 13, Wooten timely filed answers to Palmer's interrogatories and request for production of documents.

Wooten subsequently propounded interrogatories to, and requested documents from, Palmer on May 18. Palmer, however, failed to respond. On July 25, Wooten filed a motion to compel. Nearly two months later, on September 19, Palmer filed her answers to Wooten's interrogatories and request for documents; these answers were incomplete. On September 30, then-presiding Circuit Court Judge Vlahos ordered Palmer to supplement "proper" answers to Wooten's interrogatories; these answers were filed on October 7, 1983. Palmer's supplemental answers were as incomplete as her original answers. Consider the following examples.

Interrogatory No. 3:

List every fact, opinion, document and other piece of evidence which plaintiff claims supports the allegation in paragraph III of the complaint that while at defendant hospital the deceased Patricia Leanne Palmer "sustained a stress ulcer."

Palmer's Original Answer to No. 3:

See the hospital records, the death certificate and the autopsy report.

Court Order to Supplement Answer to No. 3:

With reference to Interrogatory No. 3 and the answer thereto, the plaintiff shall specify what documents within "the hospital records" plaintiff and [her] attorneys rely on in alleging that the deceased sustained a stress ulcer.

Palmer's Supplemental Answer to No. 3:

Please see response to Interrogatory No. 4 of the original answers to Interrogatories.

Palmer's Original Answer to No. 4:

See death certificate and autopsy report.

Interrogatory No. 5:

List every fact, opinion, document and other piece of evidence which plaintiff claims supports the allegations in paragraph III of the complaint that the defendant Wooten was "in charge of treating the said patient and making said diagnosis as to her illness and injuries."

Palmer's Original Answer to No. 5:

Please see medical records which indicate that he was a member of the treating staff rendering diagnosis, surgery and other treatment to the deceased.

Court Order to Supplement Answer to No. 5:

With respect to Interrogatory No. 5 and the answer thereto, plaintiff shall specify what specific diagnosis and treatment [she] and [her] attorneys contend...

To continue reading

Request your trial
277 cases
  • In re Lipitor (Atorvastatin Calcium) Mktg., Sales Practices & Prods. Liab. Litig.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • 3 Enero 2017
    ... ... their request to marshal their own medical records and information from their own treating ... Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc ., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d ... the common knowledge of laymen") (quoting Palmer v. Biloxi Reg'l Med. Ctr., Inc., 564 So.2d 1346, ... ...
  • Skelton By and Through Roden v. Twin County Rural Elec. Ass'n, 90-CA-0523
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • 31 Diciembre 1992
    ... ... Palmer v. Biloxi Regional Medical Center, Inc., 564 ... ...
  • In re Lipitor (Atorvastatin Calcium) Mktg., Sales Practices & Prods. Liab. Litig.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • 3 Enero 2017
    ... ... their request to marshal their own medical records and information from their own treating ... Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc ., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d ... the common knowledge of laymen") (quoting Palmer v. Biloxi Reg'l Med. Ctr., Inc., 564 So.2d 1346, ... ...
  • Suddith v. University of Southern Miss.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • 31 Julio 2007
    ... ... WTWV, Inc., 609 So.2d 348, 351 (Miss.1992)). Summary ... Credit Center, Inc., 444 So.2d 358, 362 (Miss.1983)). To ... Palmer v. Biloxi Reg'l Med. Ctr., 564 So.2d 1346, 1356 ... at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and "on schedule ... to eventually become ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT