GRAHAM READ IRBY, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH KAREN COLLINS, MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND APPELLANT
SUDHAKAR MADAKASIRA, M.D. AND PSYCAMORE, LLC APPELLEES
OF JUDGMENT: 08/24/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JOHN HUEY EMFINGER, Judge
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JOHN W. CHRISTOPHER WILLIAM P.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: CLIFFORD B. AMMONS CLIFFORD BARNES
Graham Read Irby, by and through his mother, Karen Collins,
filed a wrongful-death suit against the psychiatrist who
treated his father, Stuart M. Irby (Irby), prior to
Irby's death by suicide. The suit alleged the
psychiatrist's intentional and negligent acts created an
irresistible impulse in Irby to commit suicide. The circuit
court dismissed the action, finding that the claims of
intentional acts were barred by the one-year statute of
limitations for intentional torts and that Irby's suicide
was a superseding event that barred any negligence claims. On
appeal, Collins argues that despite allegations of
intentional acts, the complaint was based in negligence, for
which a two-year statute of limitations applies, and the
negligence action is not barred. Finding the circuit court
correctly dismissed the complaint, we affirm.
Prior to his death, Irby sought psychiatric treatment from
Dr. Sudhakar Madakasira, a physician specializing in
psychiatry. Dr. Madakasira treated Irby for various
conditions, including bipolar disorder, anger management, and
alcohol abuse. On February 11, 2009, Irby and his wife, Karen
Irby, now Karen Collins, were involved in a car accident.
Irby suffered a severe, traumatic frontal-lobe brain injury.
He continued to see Dr. Madakasira for the brain injury.
Due to that injury, Irby was deemed incapable of conducting
his own business affairs, and coconservators were appointed
by the Hinds County Chancery Court, First Judicial District.
The conservators petitioned the chancery court for authority
to file a divorce complaint on Irby's behalf against
Collins. The petition was granted. In support of the divorce
complaint, the conservators attached an affidavit executed by
Dr. Madakasira on October 28, 2011, while Irby was under his
care. The affidavit stated that Irby had told Dr. Madakasira
that he was unsure if he wanted a divorce from Collins.
However, Dr. Madakasira swore in his affidavit that due to
the brain injury, Irby was not capable of making a decision
in his or Graham's best interest regarding the divorce.
Dr. Madakasira opined that a divorce was in Irby's best
interest and that it would be detrimental to Irby's
health to remain married to Collins. Dr. Madakasira testified
consistently at the divorce hearing. Although Irby testified
he did not want a divorce, the divorce was granted.
On January 17, 2012, Irby told Collins, over the phone, that
he was forced into the divorce and had no reason to live.
Irby committed suicide at his home later that day.
On December 16, 2013, Collins sent Dr. Madakasira and his
employer, Psycamore LLC, a notice of intent to commence a
medical-malpractice action based on wrongful death.
See Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-36(15) (Rev. 2012)
(requiring at least sixty days' prior written notice of
intent to begin a professional-negligence claim against
healthcare providers). On March 17, 2014, Collins filed her
complaint in Hinds County Circuit Court, First Judicial
District. The complaint alleged that Dr. Madakasira and
Psycamore, through the doctrine of respondeat superior,
negligently caused Irby's death by suicide. It was later
determined that the proper venue was Rankin County, and an
agreed order was entered transferring the case to Rankin
County Circuit Court.
After the case was transferred, Collins was granted leave to
file an amended complaint. The amended complaint alleged
negligence and added a claim for "intentional
acts." The amended portion of the complaint alleged that
"[a]s a direct and proximate result of the intentional
acts of Dr. Madakasira in assisting the conservators in the
prosecution of the divorce action and the granting of a
divorce by the Chancery Court[, ] Stuart M. Irby developed an
irresistible impulse to commit suicide[.]"
Dr. Madakasira moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that
the one-year statute of limitations for intentional torts
barred the action and that any negligence claims were barred
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. After a hearing, the circuit court granted the
motion to dismiss. Collins's motion for reconsideration
was denied. Collins appeals, arguing that the two-year
statute of limitations for professional negligence applies
and that the case should be reversed and remanded for
discovery and further proceedings.
The application of the correct statute of limitations is a
question of law, which we review de novo. Lyas v. Forrest
Gen. Hosp., 177 So.3d 412, 416 (¶18) (Miss. 2015).
We also review de novo a trial court's decision to grant
a motion to dismiss under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for which relief can be
granted. Stockstill v. State, 854 So.2d 1017,
1019-20 (¶4) (Miss. 2003). When considering a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "the allegations in the
complaint must be taken as true, and the motion should not be
granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff
will be unable to prove any set of facts in support of her
claim." Stockstill, 854 So.2d at 1020
Whether Collins's wrongful-death complaint is
barred by the one- year statute of
limitations for intentional torts.
The applicable statute of limitations in "a
wrongful[-]death action is adopted from the statute of
limitations that governs the tort that caused the
death." Tolliver ex rel. Wrongful Death
Beneficiaries of Green v. Mladineo, 987 So.2d 989, 996
(¶17) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007) (citing Lee v.
Thompson, 859 So.2d 981, 990 (¶21) (Miss. 2003)).
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice is two
years. Id.; Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-36(2) (Rev.
2012). Intentional torts not within the medical-malpractice
statute, however, are subject to a one-year statute of
limitations. Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-35 (Rev.
Collins's original complaint alleged medical negligence.
In November 2014, after Collins's complaint was filed,
the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down its decision in
Truddle v. Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto Inc.,
150 So.3d 692 (Miss. 2014). Both sides agree that
Truddle controls this case. Truddle held
that "to sustain a cause of action for a suicide . . .,
the plaintiff must show that the defendant committed an
intentional act that [proximately caused] an
irresistible impulse [in the decedent] to commit
suicide[.]" Id. at 697 (¶19) (emphasis
added) (citing State ex rel. Richardson v.
Edgeworth, 214 So.2d 579, 586-88 (Miss. 1968)). This is
an exception to common law, which prohibited recovery for
wrongful death by suicide, as "suicide is an
'unforeseeable, intervening cause[, ] which breaks the
causal connection between the wrongful act and the
death.'" Id. at 695 (¶11) (quoting
Edgeworth, 214 So.2d at 586).
To comply with Truddle's intentional-act
pleading requirement, Collins moved for, and was granted,
leave to amend the complaint. The pertinent section of the
amended complaint reads:
ACTS OF ...