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Cotten v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

May 18, 2017

ANTHONY COTTEN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF TONI COTTEN, DECEASED; AND THE ESTATE OF TONI COTTEN, DECEASED BY AND THROUGH LYNNITA BARTEE, ADMINISTRATRIX PLAINTIFFS
v.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; H.C. WATKINS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL; RUSH MEDICAL FOUNDATION; RUSH HEALTH SYSTEMS, INC.; IVAN ZAMORA, M.D.; JAMES LOCK, M.D.; EMCARE PHYSICIAN SERVICES, INC., EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES CORPORATION, EMCARE PHYSICIAN PROVIDERS, INC., EMCARE, INC., AND JOHN DOES 1-5 DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TOM S. LEE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Toni Cotten died from sepsis at 5:00 on the morning of August 20, 2013, less than 20 hours after presenting at the emergency department of H.C. Watkins Memorial Hospital. Following her death, plaintiffs Anthony Cotten, individually and on behalf of all wrongful death beneficiaries of Toni Cotten, deceased, and the Estate of Toni Cotten, deceased, by and through Lynnita Bartee, Administratrix, filed the present action against H.C. Watkins Memorial Hospital, among others, alleging medical malpractice in the care and treatment she received at H.C. Watkins Memorial Hospital.[1] Plaintiffs have now moved for partial summary judgment as to the standard of care and breach of the standard of care on their claim against defendant H.C. Watkins Memorial Hospital. Defendant Rush Medical Foundation d/b/a H.C. Watkins Memorial Hospital (Watkins Hospital or Hospital) has responded in opposition to the motion. The court, having considered the memoranda of authorities, together with attachments, submitted by the parties, concludes that plaintiffs' motion should be granted.

         Facts

         The following facts are undisputed. On the morning of August 19, 2013, Toni Cotten, age 18, arrived at the emergency department of Watkins Hospital, accompanied by her father. Ms. Cotten complained that she was weak and had pain in her extremities. She reported she had been having symptoms for about forty-eight hours. She also provided a medical history, which included that she had sickle cell disease.[2] She was seen in the emergency department by Dr. Ivan Zamora, who noted that “[t]his is a typical [sickle cell pain] crisis for patient and except for severity there are no unusual symptoms.”[3] Although Dr. Zamora suspected Ms. Cotten might also have an infection since she had fever and her white blood count was elevated, he assumed what she had was a “[sickle cell] like syndrome, ” for which he ordered IV pain medication and fluids. He also ordered type and screen and cross-match three units of packed red blood cells in preparation for a blood transfusion.

         While Ms. Cotten was still in the emergency department, Dr. Zamora ordered urine and blood cultures to investigate the potential of infection. In the meantime, he ordered IV administration of Cipro, a broad spectrum antibiotic, STAT, to be administered after blood cultures were drawn.[4] At 2:15 p.m., Dr. Zamora ordered Ms. Cotten admitted to acute inpatient unit and around 2:30 p.m., she was moved from the emergency department to the hospital floor. It is undisputed that while Ms. Cotten was in the emergency department, the antibiotics Dr. Zamora ordered were not administered. The emergency department nurse assigned to Ms. Cotten, Sara Beckman, noted that Cipro was hung awaiting to be started infusion pending blood cultures to be drawn by the lab; however, blood was never drawn for the blood culture while Ms. Cotten was in the emergency department and the Cipro was not administered.

         At 4:00 p.m., after Ms. Cotten was moved to the floor, Dr. Zamora ordered transfusion of two units of packed red blood cells; transfusion of the first unit began at 4:30 p.m. At 5:20, Dr. Zamora gave an order for IV Cipro 400 mg, “start now.” And at 6:05 p.m., he entered an order for IV Cipro “now” and twice a day, and for Cipro injections every twelve hours. Transfusion of the first unit of packed red blood cells ended at 6:55 p.m. and the floor nurse started the second unit at 8:25 p.m. The Cipro Dr. Zamora ordered had not been administered. The floor nurse noted in the medical record at 9:00 p.m. “medication held, pt. receiving blood at this time.” After the second transfusion ended at 10:10 p.m., Dr. James Lock, who had taken over Ms. Cotten's care after Dr. Zamora left work for the day, ordered a third transfusion, which was started at 10:40 p.m.. At that point, blood still had not been drawn for the cultures ordered by Dr. Zamora and the Cipro he had ordered had not been administered. At 12:02 a.m. on August 20, the nurse made another note in the medical record that Cipro was not given. The third transfusion was complete at 12:30 a.m. Finally, at 1:58 a.m., blood was collected for the cultures Dr. Zamora had ordered.

         Over the next hour, Ms. Cotten's condition deteriorated further. By 2:50 a.m., the nurse noted, she was becoming “unresponsive” and her extremities were “cold”; at 3:00 a.m., a code was called, and at 3:29 a.m., a second code was called. She was intubated; and while they were able to regain a pulse, Ms. Cotten did not regain consciousness. At 4:48 a.m., Dr. Lock ordered Ms. Cotten transferred to Rush Medical Center in Meridian via ambulance. However, minutes later, at 4:54, a third code was called and she did not survive. She was pronounced dead at 5:03 a.m.

         Plaintiffs' Motion

         Plaintiffs move the court to enter partial summary judgment in their favor establishing two specific matters: (1) that the failure of the Watkins Hospital nurses to administer the antibiotic Cipro to Toni Cotten was a breach of the applicable standard of care and duty owed to Toni Cotten, and (2) that failure of the Watkins Hospital nurses to ensure that blood for the blood culture was timely drawn was a breach of the applicable standard of care and duty owed to Toni Cotten by Watkins Hospital and its employees.[5]

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper when the evidence shows that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A dispute regarding a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings and designate “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324.

         Analysis

         To prevail in a medical malpractice case under Mississippi law, the plaintiff must prove that there was “a duty by the defendant to conform to a specific standard of conduct for the protection of others against an unreasonable risk of injury; (2) a failure to conform to the required standard; and (3) an injury to the plaintiff proximately caused by the breach of such duty by the defendant.” Hubbard v. Wansley, 954 So.2d 951, 956-57 (Miss. 2007) (citing Drummond v. Buckley, 627 So.2d 264, 268 (Miss. 1993)). Generally, “‘[w]hen proving these elements in a medical malpractice suit, expert testimony must be used'” to “‘identify and articulate the requisite standard that was not complied with'” and to “‘establish that the failure was the proximate cause, or proximate contributing cause, of the alleged injuries.'” Id. (quoting Barner v. Gorman, 605 So.2d 805, 809 (Miss. 1992)). This general rule is subject to “an ...


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