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Truddle v. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto, Inc.

Supreme Court of Mississippi

November 6, 2014

DIANNE TRUDDLE, AS MOTHER AND WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARY OF ERIC CARMICHAEL, DECEASED
v.
BAPTIST MEMORIAL HOSPITAL-DESOTO, INC.; AND SUNIL MALHOTRA, M.D

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/25/2013.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: DESOTO COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROBERT P. CHAMBERLIN.

FOR APPELLANT: BENJAMIN N. PHILLEY.

FOR APPELLEES: WALTER ALAN DAVIS, SARAH KATHERINE EMBRY, CLINTON M. GUENTHER.

WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE. RANDOLPH, P.J., LAMAR, CHANDLER AND PIERCE, JJ., CONCUR. KING, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY DICKINSON, P.J., KITCHENS AND COLEMAN, JJ.

OPINION

Page 693

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WRONGFUL DEATH

WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE

¶1. Diane Truddle, as mother and wrongful-death beneficiary of Eric Carmichael, sued Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto, Inc., and Dr.Sunil Malhotra after Carmichael committed suicide upon being discharged from Baptist. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Baptist and Dr. Malhotra and entered a final judgment in their favor as a matter of law. Truddle appealed to this Court. Finding that the trial court did not err in granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment, we affirm.

Page 694

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. On June 9, 2008, Carmichael was admitted to Baptist complaining of chest pains and was seen by internist Dr. Malhotra. After undergoing some tests, Carmichael was diagnosed with a gastric ulcer, gastritis, esophagitis, questionable pericarditis, and normal coronary arteries following a heart catheterization.

¶3. On June 12, 2008, the night before Carmichael was discharged from Baptist, he became agitated and aggressive. He took the IV out of his arm and attempted to leave the hospital, but nurses stopped him and forced him back to his room. During this encounter, one nurse stated that Carmichael said someone was " trying to rape him." Truddle characterized this episode as a hallucination, but Dr. Malhotra and Baptist pointed to the deposition of Jeremy Newsome, a friend of Carmichael, who stated that this was in jest. The attending nurse that night noted the incident on Carmichael's chart; however, Dr. Malhotra was not informed of the incident and did not review the nurse's note before discharging Carmichael the next day.

¶4. Prior to discharge, Carmichael and Truddle told Dr. Malhotra that Carmichael wished to remain in the hospital a few more days. In her deposition, Truddle stated that she told Dr. Malhotra that she did not want Carmichael to be discharged because " he had had an outburst the night before" and that Carmichael stated that " something they gave me [medications] made me crazy." Among the drugs Carmichael was prescribed was Reglan, which Truddle asserts potentially put Carmichael at a higher risk of suicide.[1] However, neither Carmichael nor Truddle raised any concerns about Carmichael hurting himself or having any suicidal ideation. Despite Truddle's concerns, Carmichael was discharged, and Dr. Malhotra told Carmichael to return if he did not feel better. Dr. Malhotra also scheduled a followup visit to check Carmichael's progress and treatment of the ulcer.

¶5. Carmichael and Truddle returned for his followup appointment with Dr. Malhotra four days later. Truddle stated that she told Dr. Malhotra that Carmichael was complaining that the medications he was taking were " making [him] crazy," and that Carmichael had been complaining that " [h]e had a mental status change on [the night before he was discharged]." Truddle also stated that she told Dr. Malhotra that Carmichael refused to leave the hospital with her the day he was discharged from Baptist. Dr. Malhotra examined Carmichael for the gastrointestinal issues that were the basis for his admission to Baptist. Truddle then stated that Dr. Malhotra wrote Carmichael another prescription for Reglan and told him he did not have to take any more pain medication and that Carmichael should follow up with him in three to four weeks.

¶6. The day after seeing Dr. Malhotra, and five days after being discharged from Baptist, Carmichael told his friend Natlin Porter that he was " tired of living." That same day, Carmichael told his cousin that he needed a gun, and that he wanted to see his deceased cousin, Tavares. Carmichael subsequently drove from Southaven to Sardis to retrieve the handgun he used

Page 695

to kill himself. The next day, Carmichael called his girlfriend and asked her to take care of his sister and mother if something happened to him. He then sent a text message to a number of his friends saying he wanted them to know that he was now resting in peace. Later that day, six days after being released from Baptist and two days after his last appointment with Dr. Malhotra, Carmichael barricaded himself in his bedroom and committed suicide.

¶7. Subsequently, Carmichael's mother, Truddle, filed a medical-malpractice and wrongful-death suit against Dr. Malhotra and Baptist, setting out claims for medical negligence, vicarious liability, breach of warranty, wrongful death, torturous breach of contract, gross negligence, and punitive damages. Both parties took part in substantial discovery, and each retained experts. Truddle's experts indicated they would testify that Dr. Malhotra and Baptist were negligent, breached the applicable standard of care, and proximately caused Carmichael's suicide. Experts for Dr. Malhotra ...


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