BEFORE PATTERSON, PRATHER AND ROBERTSON
PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
The matter of the quantum and quality of evidence necessary in a medical malpractice case to establish the failure to provide requisite emergency room care is presented to the Court. Plaintiffs/appellants, the heirs and next of
kin of Mrs. Flora Hammond, deceased, invoking the provisions of Mississippi Wrongful Death Statute, Miss. Code Ann. 11-7-13 (Supp. 1984), filed suit against defendants/appellees, Dr. C. E. Grissom, emergency room doctor, and Mississippi Baptist Hospital in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, alleging Flora Hammond's wrongful death from medical malpractice. The Circuit Court directed a verdict in favor of the defendants at the close of the plaintiffs' case in chief and entered final judgment thereon.
Appellants assign as error:
(1) The trial court erred in sustaining the defendants' objection to the qualifications of plaintiffs' expert witness.
(2) The trial court erred in directing a verdict in favor of the defendants.
Appellants are the heirs and next of kin of Flora B. Hammond, who died on February 24, 1976. On February 23, 1976, after falling and injuring her head, Mrs. Hammond was admitted to the emergency room at the Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi at approximately 1:30 p.m. Appellee, Dr. C. E. Grissom, was the attending emergency room physician at the time of Mrs. Hammond's admission.
After x-rays were taken, Mrs. Hammond was placed in a treating room in the emergency room area of the hospital at 2:25 p.m. According to two of her daughters who were present, Mrs. Hammond was bleeding profusely from her right ear, nose and the back of her head. Mrs. Hammond's daughters, Cheryl Janotta and Rita Watkins, unassisted by hospital personnel, attempted to attend to their mother's needs. Cheryl Hammond Janotta testified that she used all available swabbing material that she could find to clean the blood from her mother's wounds. According to Janotta, no treatment or tests were administered by hospital personnel at this time.
It was Mrs. Hammond's daughters who attended their mother; they secured an orderly to remove Mrs. Hammond's dentures in order to prevent her from choking; they obtained additional swabbing material from another treatment room in order to clean up the continued bleeding; they obtained bed pans in order that Mrs. Hammond might use the bathroom.
At approximately 2:45 p.m., Dr. Grissom came into the treating room with Mrs. Hammond's x-rays and explained to the
family that Mrs. Hammond had a skull fracture and needed the services of a neurosurgeon. When asked about the extensive bleeding, Dr. Grissom indicated that such bleeding was normal with this type of fracture. The family advised Dr. Grissom of their preference in selection of a neurosurgeon, and presumably Dr. Grissom left to contact the neurosurgeon.
Mrs. Hammond remained in the treating area from the time of Dr. Grissom's visit until approximately 4:10 when two nurses began an intravenous drip and left. At 4:30 p.m. two candy striper volunteers took Mrs. Hammond toward the intensive care unit, stopping to talk to a nurse on the way for from three to five minutes, arriving in the ICU at approximately 4:45 p.m. No medical care was administered during this two hour period, except the IV drip immediately before removal to ICU. The hospital records show that Dr. Glen Warren was called to the ICU at 4:45 p.m. and told" that Mrs. Hammond had arrived and she had experienced a respiratory arrest. "Warren's physical examination report also stated that on his initial evaluation" she was in an irreversible neurological state clinically. The family was so informed. "
According to a family member's testimony, Dr. Warren first talked to them at 5:15 p.m. Mrs. Hammond was pronounced dead at approximately 1:00 a.m. on the morning of February 24, 1976. Dr. Forrest G. Bratley, pathologist, testified that an autopsy revealed at least two ounces of liquid blood and blood clot on each side of Mrs. Hammond's brain. According to Bratley, the brain itself was swollen and compressed by the blood which had collected ...