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JEANETTE BROWN, ET AL. v. DR. WILLIAM C. McQUINN

MAY 14, 1986

JEANETTE BROWN, ET AL.
v.
DR. WILLIAM C. McQUINN, ET AL.



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, HAWKINS and SULLIVAN

ROY NOBLE LEE, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Jeanette Brown, the mother of seventeen-year-old Ronnie Brown, together with his brothers and sisters, filed this malpractice suit in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District, Hinds County, Mississippi, Honorable Charles T. Barber, presiding, against Dr. William C. McQuinn and Dr. William E. Bowlus. The lower court sustained motions for summary judgments filed by Dr. McQuinn and Dr. Bowlus, and dismissed the complaint. The Browns have appealed to this Court.

The question presented is whether or not the lower court erred in sustaining the motions for summary judgments and in dismissing the complaint.

 The record supporting and opposing the motions for summary judgments, which include depositions, interrogatories and answers, medical records and affidavits, reflect the following:

 Ronnie Brown was experiencing jerking spells in October, 1979, and was seen at the medical health center in Greenwood, Mississippi, by Dr. John Alford, who prescribed medication for him. Ronnie continued to have the difficulty and was not doing well in school. Dr. Alford referred him to Dr. McQuinn who first saw Ronnie in his office in Jackson, Mississippi. He next saw him on March 7, 1980. Ronnie was admitted to Riverside Hospital by Dr. McQuinn, who was his primary treating physician. Dr. McQuinn also discharged him from that hospital. Dr. McQuinn's diagnosis at the time of discharge was cerebral dysrhythmia, myoclonic seizures. His secondary diagnosis was anemia, iron deficiency. Dr. McQuinn called in Dr. Bowlus, a neurologist, for consultation. Dr. Bowlus wrote the initial order for Dilantin, and Dr. McQuinn prescribed that medication. According to Dr. McQuinn, he and Dr. Bowlus were mutually responsible for following through on the treatment of Ronnie.

 Dr. McQuinn discharged Ronnie from Riverside Hospital on March 26, 1980, with a final diagnosis of cerebral dysrhythmia, accompanied by myoclonic seizures. Ronnie and his parents went by Dr. McQuinn's office, where Ronnie was instructed to take 400 mg. of Dilantin and 30 mg. of phenobarbital daily. Dr. McQuinn indicated that he wanted to

 see Ronnie again in two or three weeks, but no appointment was made at that time. After Ronnie returned to his Greenwood home, he appeared to improve at first, but during his second week at home, his condition deteriorated. On April 11, Ronnie broke out in a high fever and rash consisting of measle-like bumps over his entire body. He had lost his sense of balance and coordination, was constantly sleepy, and was so ill that he could not stand up or walk around without holding onto something. His mother called Dr. McQuinn, who told her that the medicine could not be causing those problems, and told her to reduce the phenobarbital dosage. Five (5) days later, Ronnie's mother again called Dr. McQuinn, telling him that there was no improvement.

 Ronnie was admitted to Greenwood Leflore Hospital on April 12, 1980, with an initial diagnosis of a possible allergic reaction. The attending physician was of the impression that the rash was secondary to hydantoin toxicity. Dilantin is a drug of the hydantoin family. Ronnie's condition did not improve, and he was transferred to University Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi, on April 18, where a preliminary diagnosis was made of" Dilantin induced hepatitic failure. "Ronnie remained at University Medical Center until he died on April 22, 1980. An autopsy was performed, which indicated that the cause of death was liver failure as a consequence of Dilantin hypersensitivity.

 The key to the decision in this case is whether or not there was a genuine issue of material fact. If there is such an issue, the judgment of the lower court must be reversed. If there is not, then the judgment will be affirmed. There are a number of cases in this state interpreting Rule 56, Miss. R. Civ. P. In Hudson v. Bank of Edwards, 469 So. 2d 1234 (Miss. 1985), the Court stated:

 The standard for summary judgment is set forth in Rule 56 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that the judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith, if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

 469 So. 2d at 1238. See also Bush v. Mullen, 478 So. 2d 313 (Miss. 1985); Smith v. H. C. Bailey Companies, 477 So. 2d 224 (Miss. 1985).

 In Dennis v. Searle, 457 So. 2d 941 (Miss. 1984),

 the Court said:

 Issues of fact sufficient to require denial of the motion for summary judgment obviously are present where one party swears to one version of the matter in issue and another says just the opposite. Issues of fact, as a matter of proper construction of Rule 56 also exist where there is more than one reasonable interpretation that may be given undisputed testimony, where materially differing but nevertheless reasonable inferences may be drawn from the uncontradicted facts, or where the purported establishment of the facts has been sufficiently incomplete or inadequate that the trial judge cannot say with reasonable confidence that the full facts of the matter have been disclosed.

 457 So. 2d at 944.

 Many trial judges in this state seem not to have grasped the application of Rule 56 nor to realize what is meant by a genuine issue of material fact. Consequently, they are hasty in granting summary judgments, thereby benefitting none of the parties litigant. We remind the Bench and Bar of this ...


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