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MEDA H. PARHAM v. B. O. MOORE

NOVEMBER 08, 1989

MEDA H. PARHAM
v.
B. O. MOORE, M. D.



EN BANC

ANDERSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

PETITION FOR HEARING

On Petition for Rehearing the original opinion is withdrawn and this opinion substituted therefor.

 In this medical malpractice action, the plaintiff/appellant, Meda Parham, appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant/appellee, Dr. B. O. Moore. Finding one of Parham's two alternative claims meritorious, we reverse and remand.

 I.

 On or about December 30, 1981, Parham twisted her back while cleaning her house after the Christmas holiday. Five days later, on January 4, 1982, she went to see Dr. Moore, a general or family practitioner, who had been Parham's doctor since 1968, complaining of pain the region of her left hip and leg. Parham saw Dr. Moore a total of four times between January 4, and April 8, 1982. On April 8, Parham was complaining of weakness in her left leg and ankle as well as continued pain. Dr. Moore referred her to an orthopedic surgeon in Columbus. On April 19, 1982, the orthopedic surgeon made a preliminary diagnosis of a possible ruptured disc and recommended neurosurgical evaluation.

 On April 22, 1982, Parham saw Dr. Thomas McDonald, a Tupelo neurosurgeon. Dr. McDonald hospitalized Parham and the next day a myelogram was performed which indicated a need for disc surgery. Surgery was performed on April 26, 1982. Two herniated, ruptured lumbar discs were removed. According to Parham, Dr. McDonald spoke with her after the surgery and indicated that he was surprised that she had been able to withstand the pain because the bones had been pressing against the nerves in her back. In an affidavit, Dr. McDonald averred that after the operation he advised Parham that she would" probably regain the use of her leg, but that it would take eighteen months or so for the healing process to be completed. "Dr. McDonald further averred that Parham underwent therapy until approximately March 21, 1983; that, in his opinion her paralysis is permanent; and, that the paralysis was" due to continued nerve pressure from the herniated discs over a period of time. "Dr. McDonald concluded:

 It takes at least eighteen months for nerve regeneration to reach completion in this type of case. It would not be possible to state with certainty whether or not Mrs. Parham's injury was permanent until eighteen months to two years after her surgery was performed.

 In June, 1983, Dr. McDonald referred Parham to Campbell Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee, for further evaluation concerning her continued paralysis. The object of the evaluation was to rule out other possible causes of the paralysis. On July 1, 1983, Parham saw Dr. Michael DeShazo, a neurologist, in order to determine whether she had suffered a stroke. Dr. DeShazo determined that she had not. Dr. DeShazo's records, concerning his consultation with Parham, indicate that Parham told him that" she began to have difficulty with her left leg getting weak in June of 1982. "This would have been two months after the disc surgery. Parham maintained that her leg became useless sometime before her surgery and that after the surgery it did not change; it got neither worse, nor better. Dr. DeShazo also opined that it would take twelve to eighteen months after disc surgery such as Parham's to determine whether any nerve damage would be permanent.

 On April 24, 1984, Parham filed her complaint in the Monroe County Circuit Court against Dr. Moore alleging medical malpractice in the form of failure to diagnose, failure to refer to a specialist, and general medical negligence. The injury complained of was the permanent partial paralysis of her left leg. Dr. Moore answered and alleged as an affirmative defense that the two-year statute of limitations barred Parham's suit.

 While suit was filed on April 24, 1984, service of process was held until November 1, 1984. In an April 23, 1984, letter to the Monroe County Circuit Clerk, accompanying her complaint, Parham's attorney wrote:" We are attempting to settle this claim, but are required to file in order to avoid the running of the statute of limitations. We would appreciate your withholding the service of process until further notification. "

 On December 12, 1985, the trial court granted Dr. Moore's motion for summary judgment, finding that Parham knew or should have known of any causal connection between her alleged injuries and the treatment rendered by Dr. Moore on or before April 25, 1982. The trial court also determined that Parham's cause of action did not commence until November 1, 1984, when process was issued.

 On appeal, Parham first argues that her cause of action accrued no earlier than April 26, 1983, because she could not have determined that she had a compensable injury until at least twelve months following her surgery. If April 26, 1983, is the date on which Parham's cause of action accrued, then her suit was filed well within the two-year statute of limitations whether the action was commenced on April 24, 1984, or November 1, 1984. Parham's alternative argument is that the action

 commenced on April 24, 1984, when the complaint was filed rather than on November 1, 1984, when process was issued. We need not address Parham's alternative argument, as we hold that her cause of action ...


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