Runyon v. Reid

Decision Date13 March 1973
Docket NumberNo. 42806,42806
PartiesHalina J. RUNYON, Appellant, v. William Richard REID et al., Appellees.
CourtOklahoma Supreme Court

McConnico & Harris, by Warren L. McConnico and Sam Harris, Tulsa, for appellant.

Best, Sharp, Thomas & Glass, Joseph M. Best and Joseph A. Sharp, Tulsa, for appellee William Richard Reid.

Houston, Klein & Davidson, L. Michael Hager, Tulsa, for appellee Robert G. Tompkins, M.D.

Hudson, Wheaton & Brett, R. D. Hudson, Tulsa, for appellee Tulsa Psychiatric Foundation, Inc.

Alfred B. Knight, Richard D. Wagner, Tulsa, for appellees Clay Majors, Ralph Couch, individually and Ralph Couch, d/b/a Couch Pharmacy.

BERRY, Justice.

John Hutchinson Runyon's widow, Halina J. Runyon, plaintiff, brought this action for damages for his wrongful death against William Richard Reid, Robert G. Tompkins, the Tulsa Psychiatric Foundation, Inc., Ralph Couch Individually, Ralph Couch, an individual doing business as Couch Pharmacy, and Clay Majors. Defendants shall be referred to collectively as 'defendants', and individually by name, except that Couch and Majors shall be referred to collectively as 'Couch'. The trial court sustained defendants' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff appeals.

The allegations contained in plaintiff's second amended petition may be summarized as follows:

1. That at all times subsequent to August, 1957, decedent was a mentally incompetent person incapable of managing his own affairs;

2. That prior to his death, the Foundation and Reid, a doctor of medicine specializing in psychiatry in the City of Tulsa, treated decedent for mental ailments, and Tompkins, a doctor of medicine in general practice in the City of Tulsa, treated decedent for physical ailments, and each knew, or should have known of decedent's mental affliction;

3. That Reid, Tompkins, and the Foundation each: prescribed large quantities of potent, dangerous, and incompatible drugs for decedent, and failed to exercise, or attempt to exercise, any control over the type or quantity of drugs prescribed by the other defendants; allowed decedent to possess large quantities of potent, dangerous and harmful drugs; and failed to obtain proper and legal consent to and for the treatment of decedent through the use of drugs which were dangerous to the life and health of decedent;

4. That Reid failed to properly diagnose decedent's illness, and failed to inform decedent or plaintiff that decedent required further and different treatment from that he had been receiving;

5. That decedent had filled prescriptions by Reid, Tompkins and the Foundation at Couch Pharmacy, and that, in violation of applicable statutes, Couch refilled prescriptions for decedent without authority of the prescribing physician;

6. That by reason of the combined negligence of all defendants decedent was injured in his health and activity, and weakened in mind and body, and as a result of his weakened mental and physical condition, caused by the combined negligence of defendants in treatment, including the dispensing, administration, prescribing and sale of huge quantities of dangerous drugs, and permitting decedent to keep excessively large quantities of potent, dangerous and harmful drugs, and lack of supervision, control and direction of an incompetent and mentally ill person, John Hutchinson Runyon did die on March 19, 1964.

In support of their motions for summary judgment, defendants relied upon answers to interrogatories, responses to requests for admission of fact and depositions which were on file. The depositions included those of the pathologist who performed a post-mortem examination of the body, plaintiff, Reid, Tompkins and Ralph Couch. Plaintiff offered no evidentiary material, even though she could have done so.

In granting the motions for summary judgment the trial court found that decedent suffered from mental illness prior to his contact with or treatment by any of the defendants, that his death resulted from his taking an excessive overdose of Carbrital, and that there was no causal connection between the death of decedent and the alleged acts of negligence of the defendants.

Plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in granting defendants' motions for summary judgment. The applicable rule, 12 O.S.1971, Ch. 2, App. Rule No. 13, provides in part as follows:

'A party may move for judgment in his favor where the deposition, admission, answers to interrogatories and affidavits on file show that there is no substantial controversy as to any material fact. The adverse party may file affidavits or other materials in opposition to the motion. * * * The court shall render judgment if it appears that there is no substantial controversy as to any material fact and that any party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. * * *'

In cases such as this where defendant moves for a summary judgment and is not relying upon an affirmative defense, the defendant must show that there is no substantial controversy as to one fact material to plaintiff's cause of action and that this fact is in defendant's favor. Fraser, 'Judgment Where Facts Not Controverted'; 36 OBJ 723; Lang v. Cruz, 74 N.M. 473, 394 P.2d 988. See also Washington v. World Publishing Co., Okl., 506 P.2d 913.

Once defendant has introduced evidentiary materials indicating that there is no substantial controversy as to one fact material to plaintiff's cause of action and that this fact is in defendant's favor, plaintiff then has the burden of showing that evidence is available which would justify a trial of the issue.

In Aktiengesellschaft Der Harlander, etc. v. Lawrence Walker Cotton, 60 N.M. 154, 288 P.2d 691, the court stated this principle as follows:

'* * * the moving party has the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue as to a material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law but * * * when he has made a prima facie showing to this effect The opposing party cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment and require a trial By a bare contention that an issue of fact exists. He must show that evidence is available which would justify a trial of the issue.' (Emphasis supplied.)

'When on the basis of established facts, the plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law, the defendant contending and arguing that there is a genuine issue of material fact cannot and will not make it so.'

Summary judgment will be denied if under the evidence reasonable men might reach different conclusions from undisputed facts. Flick v. Crouch, Okl., 434 P.2d 256; Perry v. Green, Okl., 468 P.2d 483.

Therefore, it is necessary for us to examine the pleadings and evidentiary materials to determine what facts are material to plaintiff's cause of action, and to determine whether the evidentiary materials introduced indicate that there is no substantial controversy as to one material fact and that this fact is in defendant's favor.

Decedent suffered from a serious emotional disorder. This condition existed long before he had contact with any of the defendants herein.

On three occasions, once in 1947, once in 1955 and once in 1956, decedent was admitted to a hospital for the mentally ill. On each occasion he was hospitalized for more than six months. The second hospitalization occurred after decedent had threatened to commit suicide. In the summer of 1957, decedent was released from the hospital on convalescent leave with a recommendation that he seek psychiatric help.

In August 1957, he became a patient at the out-patient clinic owned and operated by the Foundation. He visited the clinic until October, 1963. The Foundation's doctors diagnosed decedent's illness as, essentially, schizophrenia.

In June, 1963, decedent's symptoms became more severe. The Foundation referred decedent to Reid for in-hospital treatment. Decedent was hospitalized from June 4, 1963, until June 28, 1963, as Reid's patient. Decedent had office consultations with Reid concerning his symptoms on five occasions between October 22, 1963, and February 22, 1964, and had telephone consultations on the average of once or twice a month during that period. Reid diagnosed decedent's illness as schizophrenia.

Between December, 1959, and March 19, 1964, Tompkins treated decedent for various physical ailments.

The Foundation, Reid, and Tompkins each prescribed various drugs for decedent. Tompkins was aware of decedent's emotional disorder, and was aware that decedent was receiving treatment for his emotional problem from Reid and the Foundation.

In Reid's opinion people with schizophrenia do not have strong suicidal tendencies, but suicide is a possibility. When a person with schizophrenia remains in a withdrawn and depressed state for several weeks or months, there is an increasing chance of suicide. Reid did not recall decedent ever mentioning suicide to him. In Reid's opinion decedent's schizophrenia was of the mild to moderate form, and decedent was harmless, frightened, scared and dependent. Reid prescribed various common 'psychiatric' drugs for decedent, including tranquilizers, to calm decedent's nerves, and antidepressants to combat emotional depression. In prescribing drugs Reid relied upon his medical background, training and experience and current literature. In his opinion the drugs he prescribed were well within the limits permissible for non-hospitalized patients. He was generally aware of the types of drugs prescribed by the Foundation, Tompkins and himself. He was aware of no reports indicating that the drugs prescribed by him were incompatible with antihistamines prescribed by Tompkins. He stated that none of the drugs prescribed by him were incompatible with each other, except that Parnate and Elavil might be incompatible if taken together over a period of time. However, he did not prescribe these drugs at the same time. If decedent had toxic manifestation from any drugs prescribed by Reid or...

To continue reading

Request your trial
123 cases
  • Akin v. Missouri Pacific R. Co.
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court
    • October 13, 1998
    ...Valley Electric Coop., Inc., 1990 OK 43, p 14, 792 P.2d 50, 55.8 Pickens, supra, note 5 at p 7, at 1082.9 Id.10 See, Runyon v. Reid, 1973 OK 25, p 12, 510 P.2d 943, 946. Accord, Wornick Co. v. Casas, 856 S.W.2d 732, 733 (Tex.1993).11 U.S. CONST. Art. VI, cl. 2 provides: "This Constitution, ......
  • Morrison v. MacNamara
    • United States
    • D.C. Court of Appeals
    • October 2, 1979
    ...193 Neb. 457, 461, 227 N.W.2d 829, 832 (1975); Wigins v. Diver, 276 N.C. 134, 140-41, 171 S.E.2d 393, 397-98 (1970); Runyon v. Reid, 510 P.2d 943, 950 (Okl.1973); Incollingo v. Ewing, 444 Pa. 263, 274, 282 A.2d 206, 214 n. 5 (1971); Swan v. Lamb, 584 P.2d 814, 818 (Utah 1978); Hundley v. Ma......
  • Gaines-Tabb v. Ici Explosives Usa, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Oklahoma
    • July 2, 1996
    ...Joyce v. M & M Gas Co., 672 P.2d 1172, 1174 (Okla.1983); Felty v. City of Lawton, 578 P.2d 757, 760 (Okla. 1977); and Runyon v. Reid, 510 P.2d 943, 950 (Okla.1973). Defendant also emphasizes that allegations of a regulatory violation do not render the concept of supervening cause any less r......
  • 83 Hawai'i 154, Lee v. Corregedore
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • October 3, 1996
    ...on the part of the patient who is being treated in an out-patient setting could well inhibit psychiatric treatment."); Runyon v. Reid, 510 P.2d 943, 949-51 (Okla.1973) (affirming summary judgment in favor of a psychiatrist where a decedent had committed suicide as an For example, despite th......
  • 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