Schembre v. Mid-America Transplant Ass'n

Decision Date11 May 2004
Docket NumberNo. ED 81539.,ED 81539.
Citation135 S.W.3d 527
PartiesThelma SCHEMBRE, Rebecca M. Mcnair, Bobby Joe Schembre, Laurie V. Laiben, Frank Schembre, Jr., Appellants, v. MID-AMERICA TRANSPLANT ASSOCIATION, Jefferson Memorial Hospital, Chris Guelbert, Respondents.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Robert J. Lenze, St. Louis, MO, for Appellants.

Edward S. Meyer, Judith C. Brostron, St. Louis, MO, Randall D. Sherman, Hillsboro, MO, for Respondents.


Thelma Schembre, et al. (hereinafter and collectively, "Appellant") appeals from the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Mid-America Transplant Services (hereinafter, "MTS"), Jefferson Memorial Hospital (hereinafter, "Hospital"), and Christopher Guelbert, R.N. (hereinafter, "Guelbert") after harvesting leg bones, tissue, and corneas from Frank Schembre, Sr. (hereinafter, "Decedent"). Appellant argues the trial court erred in granting summary judgment with respect to MTS, Hospital, and Guelbert because there were genuine issues of material fact with respect to: (1) each parties' negligence, thus precluding immunity under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (hereinafter, "the UAGA"), Section 194.270.3 RSMo (1996)1; (2) whether the parties acted in good faith under the UAGA; and (3) whether the parties exceeded the scope of Appellant's consent. We affirm in part; reverse and remand in part.

On November 28, 1998, Decedent suffered a heart attack and was transported to Hospital's emergency room. Appellant and two of her adult children arrived shortly thereafter. Hospital staff notified Appellant that Decedent could not be resuscitated and had passed away. Appellant and her children were moved to "the quiet room," an area of the hospital where families were allowed to collect themselves upon the death of a loved one. While in the quiet room, the family was approached by Guelbert, a Hospital employee, who inquired about their willingness to consider donating organs, bone, or tissue from Decedent's body.

Appellant and her children discussed with Guelbert the options should they choose to make any donation. Guelbert informed Appellant that Decedent did not meet the requirements for donation of organs, but suggested they could donate eyes, bone, or tissue if they wished. Initially, Appellant declined to give consent to any donation, but after discussing with her children Decedent's wish to help people, she agreed to donate his corneas. Appellant was adamant about restricting the donated organs from being used for research purposes.

Guelbert then inquired about her willingness to consent to donating Decedent's bone in his legs. At this point, the parties' account of the conversation differ. Appellant and her two children testified Guelbert indicated with his hands the amount of bone which would be removed from Decedent's leg, stating it was approximately two inches. When Appellant questioned his estimate by stating it appeared to be more than two inches, Guelbert told her it would be approximately two to four inches, to be removed from below the knee and above the ankle.

Appellant had additional questions which she testified Guelbert was unable to answer, so he left the quiet room and an unidentified female nurse came in to give a better explanation of the process. Appellant and her son testified this unidentified female nurse explained the eyeball would be slit to facilitate harvesting the corneas, but it would not be removed from Decedent's body. The female nurse also affirmed Guelbert's representation that approximately two to four inches of bone would be removed from Decedent's leg. Appellant and her son stated the female nurse appeared to be writing on a clipboard, and they thought she was noting the limitations on the consent form. Again, Appellant stated she did not want any donated organs to be used for research.

Guelbert testified he explained the donation process in detail to Appellant and her children. Guelbert stated he remembered the family being very much in favor of organ donation, and they had several questions. He testified he told the family the entire eyeball would be removed in order to harvest the cornea. Further, Guelbert explained to the family in detail that the long bones of the leg would be removed if they chose to donate bone. Guelbert stated he would have indicated any limitation with respect to the donation on the consent form.

After lengthy discussion, Guelbert assisted Appellant in completing the consent form. Guelbert went through the form item by item and read it to Appellant. The form indicated a check mark "yes" in the boxes for donation of "eyes" and "bone." The box labeled "any needed tissues" was marked "no." Guelbert stated he read the completed form to Appellant, which she then signed. Appellant testified she did not read the consent form because she was too distraught from her husband's death. There are no limitations on the face of the consent form.

Upon completion of the consent form, Guelbert contacted MTS in order to make arrangements for harvesting the corneas, bone, and tissue. Matthew Thompson (hereinafter, "Thompson"), a compliance manager employed by MTS, testified about the standard protocols for procuring eye, bone, and tissue donations. Thompson testified that "bone" is a term of art used in the organ donation community that generally encompasses the removal of the lower bones of the leg, including the iliac crest, femur, tibia, fibula, and fascia lata. Moreover, when a cornea is donated, the entire eye is removed during the process.

Thompson stated he initially reviewed the consent form completed by Appellant and Guelbert the evening Decedent died. Thompson testified the consent form appeared to be valid and unambiguous on its face. Further, Thompson stated it was his practice to contact the family should the consent form appear to have a discrepancy or ambiguity. Moreover, Thompson indicated families were able to place limitations on the amount of bone they donated. However, there was no such limitation on this consent form.

After arriving with a tissue recovery team from MTS, Thompson confirmed that the team procured both eyes and all of the lower leg bones, including the fascia lata, from Decedent. Upon completion of the procurement, Decedent's body was released for funeral preparation. It was at this time Appellant and her children learned of the removal of the entire eyeball and all lower leg bones.

Appellant and her children brought this suit seeking damages from MTS, Hospital, and Guelbert. All defendants filed motions for summary judgment which were granted by the trial court on the basis that the defendants were granted immunity from liability under the UAGA because they acted in good faith when harvesting the eyes, bone, and tissue. Appellant appeals.

It is well settled that when considering an appeal from a grant of summary judgment, we review the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. ITT Commercial Fin. v. Mid-America Marine, 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993). Our review is essentially de novo. Id. at 376. The criteria on appeal for testing the propriety of summary judgment are no different from those employed by the trial court to determine the propriety of sustaining the motion initially. Id. The burden of proof on a summary judgment movant is to establish a legal right to judgment flowing from facts about which there is no genuine dispute. Id. at 378.

A "defending" party may establish a right to judgment by showing: (1) facts that negate any one of the claimant's elements; (2) that the nonmovant has not been able to produce, or will not be able to produce, evidence sufficient to allow the trier of fact to find the existence of any of the claimant's elements; or (3) that there is no genuine dispute as to the existence of facts necessary to support the movant's properly pleaded affirmative defense. Id. at 381.

The nonmovant must show by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file, that one or more of the material facts shown by the movant to be without any genuine dispute is, in fact, genuinely disputed. Id. A "genuine issue" exists where the record contains competent materials that establish a plausible, but contradictory, version of the movant's essential facts. Id. at 382.

Appellant's first point on appeal attacks the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of MTS. Appellant claims there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether MTS was negligent in the removal of the corneas, bone, and tissue from Decedent's legs such that MTS would not be immune from liability under the UAGA. MTS argues it complied with all of the requirements set forth under the UAGA by obtaining a written consent form from a qualified family member and by removing only those items which were indicated on the form.

This is a case of first impression in Missouri. As a case of first impression, it is instructive to examine cases from other jurisdictions in addressing these issues. Under the UAGA as adopted and modified in Missouri, "[a] person who acts without negligence and in good faith and in accord with the terms of this act or with anatomical gift laws of another state or foreign country is not liable for damages in any civil action or subject to prosecution in any criminal proceeding for his [or her] act." Section 194.270.3 RSMo (1996). The parties direct us to several cases from other jurisdictions which are informative on the question of what constitutes acting in "good faith," but do not contain any requirement or discussion of what encompasses acting "without negligence." This Court's research reveals that Florida adopted a similar standard requiring a finding of acting "without negligence and in good faith" in order for a party to receive immunity from civil liability under the UAGA.2 Unfortunately, Florida offers little guidance in that it has not by court opinion addressed this issue as of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
10 cases
  • Carey v. New England Organ Bank
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • March 15, 2006
    ...419-420, 526 N.W.2d 15 (1994) (good faith immunity must affirmatively be pleaded by defendant). Contrast Schembre v. Mid-America Transplant Ass'n, 135 S.W.3d 527, 531 (Mo.Ct.App.2004) (different statutory standard but burden of proving good faith or lack of negligence is on defendant). Thus......
  • Kennedy-McInnis v. Biomedical Tissue Servs., Ltd.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of New York
    • April 11, 2016
    ...civil liability, despite flaws with obtaining consent or in erroneously completing the consent form.” Schembre v. Mid–America Transplant Ass'n, 135 S.W.3d 527, 532 (Mo.Ct.App.2004). See also Rahman, 578 N.W.2d at 805 (“Whether actions constitute good faith [under the UAGA] is a question of ......
  • Siegel v. Lifecenter Organ Donor Network
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • November 23, 2011
    ...See Nicoletta v. Rochester Eye & Human Parts Bank, Inc. (1987), 136 Misc.2d 1065, 1068, 519 N.Y.S.2d 928;Schembre v. Mid–America Transplant Assn. (Mo.App.2004), 135 S.W.3d 527, 532;Lyon v. United States (D.Minn.1994), 843 F.Supp. 531, 533;Ramirez v. Health Partners of S. Ariz. (1998), 193 A......
  • Geary v. Stanley Medical Research Institute
    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • January 15, 2008
    ...Hosp., 207 Mich.App. 410, 526 N.W.2d 15 (1994); Rahman v. Mayo Clinic, 578 N.W.2d 802 (Minn.Ct.App.1998); Schembre v. Mid-America Transplant Ass'n, 135 S.W.3d 527 (Mo.Ct.App.2004); Nicoletta v. Rochester Eye & Human Parts Bank, Inc., 136 Misc.2d 1065, 519 N.Y.S.2d 928 (N.Y.Sup.Ct. 1987); Br......
  • 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