DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/16/96 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. KOSTA N. VLAHOS COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT
Before Sullivan, P.j., Banks And Mills, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Banks, Justice, For The Court:
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - PERSONAL INJURY
MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:
¶1. Here, we are called upon to assess the duty of care owed one who breaks into vacant premises and consumes controlled substances found therein. We conclude that the plaintiff was, in fact, a trespasser, that the trial court applied the correct duty of care in resolving this matter based upon the evidence shown and that summary judgment was proper. Thus, we affirm.
¶2. On or about July 21, 1993, sixteen-year-old Patrick Saucier and a couple of his buddies entered an abandoned hospital building known as the Old Biloxi Regional Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi through a broken out window with the intent to smoke marijuana and see the ghosts that purportedly lived in the morgue of the hospital. The teenagers stayed in the facility for about twenty minutes while they smoked marijuana and spray painted their names on the walls.
¶3. The next night they returned to the facility and upon searching the building discovered a large amount of drugs in the hospital's pharmacy area. The teenagers found a box and filled it with various pills. They then went to the home of one of the boys and used a Physician's Desk Reference Manual, to compare pictures of pills in the book with the pills they took from the facility. After identifying as many pills as they could and determining what kind of high they would get, the boys divided the identified pills and threw away those they could not identify. All of them ingested some pills at some point. *fn1
¶4. On July 24, 1993 at 3:30 p.m., Patrick's father returned home from work to find Patrick unconscious in the bathtub. Mrs. Saucier was quickly summoned, and together they took Patrick to the hospital where it was determined - via urine and blood tests - that amphetamines, barbituates and marijuana were in his system. While the Sauciers waited for Patrick's test results, they went to the abandoned hospital after Patrick told his disbelieving parents that he got the drugs from the facility. Patrick's story, i.e., that there was a large quantity of prescription drugs in the abandoned hospital, was confirmed by his parents.
¶5. The next day Mrs. Saucier called the local police department and talked with Officer O'Bannon, informing him that there were prescription drugs in the abandoned hospital. O'Bannon sent an officer to the hospital to investigate. The officer confirmed Mrs. Saucier's allegations. The following day Mrs. Saucier, Officer O'Bannon and a few other people returned to the abandoned hospital where it was noted that, besides drugs, there were syringes, hypodermic needles, an operative x-ray machine, medical files, IV bags and fluids and other hospital equipment and items strewn throughout the building.
¶6. Extremely upset by their findings, Mrs. Saucier, on behalf of Patrick and herself, sued the City of Biloxi (the owner of the facility at the time of the incident), the Biloxi Regional Medical Center (the previous owner of the facility), and Cynthia Bamburg (the director of the pharmacy department at the center). The complaint alleged that the drugs had been negligently and carelessly left in the abandoned building, that all of the defendants knew or should have known the drugs had been left unsecured in the building, and that the lack of a secured premise created a danger to Patrick. Additionally, the complaint alleged that the defendants negligently allowed confidential medical records to remain in the unsecured premises, thereby breaching the duty of confidentiality owed to former patients including Mrs. Saucier. Finally, the complaint posited that all of the defendants were wanton, willful, and that their negligence was the product of gross negligence evidencing a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
¶7. All of the defendants denied liability and filed motions for summary judgment, premised upon the argument that Patrick was a trespasser or, at most, a licensee and that there was no evidence the defendants intentionally or wantonly injured him.
¶8. The trial court granted the summary judgment motion, finding that the Sauciers failed to provide evidence that any of the medical records found in the facility belonged to Mrs. Saucier, that Patrick was a trespasser or a mere licensee and that, either way, the duty of care owed to him by the defendants was the same - not to willfully or wantonly injure him while he was on the landowner's premises. Additionally, the trial court concluded that Patrick knew the hospital was shut down, knew that he did not have the owners' permission to enter the facility, and as ...