Vaillancourt v. Medical Center Hospital of Vermont, Inc., No. 4-80

Docket NºNo. 4-80
Citation425 A.2d 92, 139 Vt. 138
Case DateNovember 05, 1980
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

Page 92

425 A.2d 92
139 Vt. 138
James R. VAILLANCOURT, Admr. of the Estate of Baby Girl
Vaillancourt, Sandra M. Vaillancourt, and James R.
Vaillancourt, Individually
v.
MEDICAL CENTER HOSPITAL OF VERMONT, INC., and John D. Lewis.
No. 4-80.
Supreme Court of Vermont.
Nov. 5, 1980.

Page 93

[139 Vt. 139] Leslie S. Linton, of Sylvester & Maley, Burlington, for plaintiffs.

Spencer R. Knapp, of Dinse, Allen & Erdmann, Burlington, for Medical Center Hospital.

Pierson, Affolter & Wadhams, Burlington, for Lewis.

Before [139 Vt. 138] BARNEY, C. J., and DALEY, LARROW, BILLINGS and HILL, JJ.

[139 Vt. 139] LARROW, Justice.

This is an interlocutory appeal, with three certified questions, resulting from denial by the trial court of motions filed by the defendants to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. V.R.C.P. 12(b)(6). The facts alleged in the complaint, which must be assumed for the purposes of this appeal, may be summarized as follows. The defendant Medical Center Hospital of Vermont, Inc., (Hospital) conducts a general hospital in Burlington. The defendant John D. Lewis is a doctor of medicine, specializing in obstetrics. Plaintiffs are husband and wife, who had engaged the services [139 Vt. 140] of Dr. Lewis. In the evening of August 13, 1977, Mrs. Vaillancourt was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of pregnancy and active, early labor. She was an "increased labor risk" because she was about 19 days past her estimated date of confinement. Mr. Vaillancourt, who had attended child birth classes, accompanied his wife to the hospital, and was with her during the entire period of labor and delivery, giving her assistance. The hospital failed to provide adequate monitoring of the fetus, and none at all for a period of 31/2 hours, abandoning Mrs. Vaillancourt, as is alleged, without medical care and attention. At the end of this period, the fetus had died, an event the defendants could have prevented.

Dr. Lewis is claimed to have been negligent in failing to advise the hospital of Mrs. Vaillancourt's "high risk status" and other data, in failing to administer appropriate tests, and in failing to supervise and instruct hospital personnel.

The plaintiffs seek relief for:

1. Wrongful death of the fetus under 14 V.S.A. §§ 1491, 1492, by action of Mr. Vaillancourt as administrator. A similar recovery for the parents is claimed under common law.

2. Personal injury to Mrs. Vaillancourt, her pain and suffering and her emotional distress.

3. Mr. Vaillancourt's expenses for his wife's care and for loss of consortium. He also seeks to recover for his own emotional distress and substantial physical injuries resulting therefrom.

Although the defendants' motions to dismiss were addressed to the complaint as a whole, they conceded upon hearing, and upon argument here, that Mrs. Vaillancourt's claims for her own personal injuries, and her husband's claim for medical expenses and loss of consortium, were sufficiently pleaded to survive dismissal. These issues are therefore not before us.

Presented for our review, however, are the three issues certified by the trial court. Carefully worded, they may be summarized as follows: (a) the existence of a right of recovery for negligently caused wrongful death of a full term, unborn, viable child, either at common law or under 14 V.S.A. §§ 1491, 1492; (b) the existence of a right of recovery for emotional distress resulting in substantial bodily injury to husband and [139 Vt. 141] wife present at the scene of the fetus' claimed wrongful death, and (c) the existence of a right of recovery for a husband's emotional distress associated with fear for his wife's life, with accompanying physical injury to the husband, occasioned by his presence at the scene of the fetus' death. We consider these issues in that order.

Page 94

With respect to the first question outlined, the trial court did not reach the issue of whether recovery for the wrongful death involved here has a basis in common law. It based its ruling that recovery is permitted upon its interpretation of our wrongful death statute, 14 V.S.A. §§ 1491, 1492. Neither do we consider determination of that particular point requisite to decision. We note the conflict of authority upon the question. Cf. Annotation, "Modern Status of Rule Denying a Common-Law Recovery for Wrongful Death," 61 A.L.R.3d 906 (1975). But we base our decision allowing recovery upon interpretation of the wrongful death statute. In our view the statute is remedial in nature, designed to alleviate the harsh...

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61 practice notes
  • Thing v. La Chusa
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 27 April 1989
    ...(Colo.App.1986) 729 P.2d 986; Guilmette v. Alexander (1969) 128 Vt. 116, 259 A.2d 12 and Vaillancourt v. Medical Ctr. Hosp. of Vt. (1980) 139 Vt. 138, 425 A.2d 92; Whetham v. Bismarck Hospital (N.D.1972) 197 N.W.2d 678; Stadler v. Cross (Minn.1980) 295 [48 Cal.3d 673] N.W.2d 552 and Leaon v......
  • Clohessy v. Bachelor, No. 15188
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 21 May 1996
    ...Co., 570 S.W.2d 861 (Tenn.1978); Boucher v. Dixie Medical Center, 850 P.2d 1179 (Utah 1992); Vaillancourt v. Medical Center Hospital, 139 Vt. 138, 425 A.2d 92 10 The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had earlier adopted the zone of danger rule in Niederman v. Brodsky, 436 Pa. 401, 261 A.2d 84 (......
  • Price v. Delta Airlines, Inc., No. 2:97-CV-12.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 8 May 1998
    ...the `zone of danger' and subject to a reasonable fear of immediate personal injury." Vaillancourt v. Medical Ctr. Hosp. of Vermont, Inc., 139 Vt. 138, 143, 425 A.2d 92, 95 (1980). See also Leo v. Hillman, 164 Vt. 94, 101, 665 A.2d 572, 577 (1995) (reaffirming the zone of danger There is no ......
  • Farley v. Sartin, No. 22797
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 13 December 1995
    ...S.E.2d 42 (1964); Farley v. Mount Marty Hosp. Assoc., Inc., 387 N.W.2d 42 (S.D.1986); Vaillancourt v. Medical Ctr. Hosp. of Vermont, Inc., 139 Vt. 138, 425 A.2d 92 (1980); Cavazos v. Franklin, 73 Wash.App. 116, 867 P.2d 674 (1994); Moen v. Hanson, 85 Wash.2d 597, 537 P.2d 266 (1975); Baldwi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
61 cases
  • Thing v. La Chusa
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 27 April 1989
    ...(Colo.App.1986) 729 P.2d 986; Guilmette v. Alexander (1969) 128 Vt. 116, 259 A.2d 12 and Vaillancourt v. Medical Ctr. Hosp. of Vt. (1980) 139 Vt. 138, 425 A.2d 92; Whetham v. Bismarck Hospital (N.D.1972) 197 N.W.2d 678; Stadler v. Cross (Minn.1980) 295 [48 Cal.3d 673] N.W.2d 552 and Leaon v......
  • Clohessy v. Bachelor, No. 15188
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 21 May 1996
    ...Co., 570 S.W.2d 861 (Tenn.1978); Boucher v. Dixie Medical Center, 850 P.2d 1179 (Utah 1992); Vaillancourt v. Medical Center Hospital, 139 Vt. 138, 425 A.2d 92 10 The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had earlier adopted the zone of danger rule in Niederman v. Brodsky, 436 Pa. 401, 261 A.2d 84 (......
  • Price v. Delta Airlines, Inc., No. 2:97-CV-12.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 8 May 1998
    ...`zone of danger' and subject to a reasonable fear of immediate personal injury." Vaillancourt v. Medical Ctr. Hosp. of Vermont, Inc., 139 Vt. 138, 143, 425 A.2d 92, 95 (1980). See also Leo v. Hillman, 164 Vt. 94, 101, 665 A.2d 572, 577 (1995) (reaffirming the zone of danger There is no......
  • Farley v. Sartin, No. 22797
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 13 December 1995
    ...S.E.2d 42 (1964); Farley v. Mount Marty Hosp. Assoc., Inc., 387 N.W.2d 42 (S.D.1986); Vaillancourt v. Medical Ctr. Hosp. of Vermont, Inc., 139 Vt. 138, 425 A.2d 92 (1980); Cavazos v. Franklin, 73 Wash.App. 116, 867 P.2d 674 (1994); Moen v. Hanson, 85 Wash.2d 597, 537 P.2d 266 (1975); Baldwi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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