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Jones v. MEA, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi, En Banc

September 9, 2014

ELRAY JONES, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL THE HEIRS AT LAW AND WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF SHIRLEY NEBRASKA JONES, DECEASED, APPELLANT
v.
MEA, INC.; MEA MEDICAL CLINIC OF RIDGELAND, MISSISSIPPI; ST. DOMINIC - JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL; ITS AGENT-CORPORATION AND/OR PARENT COMPANY(IES); JACKSON HEART CLINIC, P.A.; ITS AGENT-CORPORATION AND/OR PARENT COMPANY; LAKELAND DRIVE, APPELLEES

Page 242

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/16/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM A. GOWAN JR. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DISMISSED WRONGFUL-DEATH CLAIMON SUMMARY JUDGMENT.

AFFIRMED.

FOR APPELLANT: DAVEY L. TUCKER, TRACEY TUCKER THRASH.

FOR APPELLEES: MILDRED M. MORRIS, JOHN ERNEST WADE JR., R. MARK HODGES, KIMBERLY NELSON HOWLAND, JOHN BURLEY HOWELL III, LANE WILLIAMSON STAINES.

LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE AND ROBERTS, JJ., CONCUR. JAMES, J., CONCURS IN PART AND DISSENTS IN PART WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. CARLTON AND FAIR, JJ., NOT PARTICIPATING.

OPINION

Page 243

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WRONGFUL DEATH

MAXWELL, J.

MODIFIED OPINION ON REHEARING

¶1 The motion for rehearing is denied. We withdraw our original opinion and substitute this opinion in its place.

¶2 In medical-malpractice cases, expert testimony is critical. An expert is needed not only to establish the medical professional deviated from the standard of care but also to prove this deviation caused the patient's injury.[1] So in this case, when the wrongful-death beneficiaries of Shirley Nebraska Jones sought to establish a medical-malpractice claim without a medical expert, the result was inevitable--the judge granted summary judgment in favor of the medical clinics and hospital that had treated Jones.

¶3 On appeal, the beneficiaries claim no expert was needed. As they see it, the malpractice was easily detectable under the " layman's exception." But this narrow exception is only available " where a layman can observe and understand the negligence as a matter of common sense and practical experience" --like when a surgeon leaves an object in the patient during surgery.[2] This exception has never been applied to allegations, like these, that the treating physicians made bad judgment calls.[3]

¶4 Eyeing their argument a bit closer, while they cite the layman's exception, what they really want is an exception to the requirement that one must be qualified to testify as a medical expert. The " lay" witness they insist could establish their claim was Shirley's daughter, Myra Jones--a self-proclaimed " medical expert" who, according to their brief, " possesse[d] more than an ordinary knowledge of medical care as a certified Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine." Myra intended to offer

Page 244

her opinion that Shirley's doctors committed malpractice--an opinion informed by her experience with alternative medicine. But under Mississippi law, Myra could not testify against licensed physicians because she was not qualified as an expert on the standard of care of medical doctors. Thus, the trial judge correctly rejected her opinion as " fatally deficient" to establish a medical-malpractice claim.

¶5 Because the beneficiaries presented no viable evidence of medical malpractice, we affirm the ...


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