OF JUDGMENT: 11/03/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JAMES T. KITCHENS, JR.
COURT ATTORNEYS: ALAN D. LANCASTER JOHN M. MONTGOMERY, DAVID
UPCHURCH, JOHN WHEELER
FOR APPELLANT: DOLTON W. McALPIN, ALAN D. LANCASTER, JOHN M.
MONTGOMERY, JOHN STUART MOORE
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JOHN MARK McINTOSH, DAVID W.
UPCHURCH, JOHN G. WHEELER
WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE.
Christopher Pollan filed a medical negligence action against
Dr. Andrew Wartak, North Mississippi Medical Center-West
Point; Angie Turnage, LPN; Chase Larmour, RN; and Ashley
Thomas, LPN, claiming that the defendants' medical
negligence caused the death of his mother, Shirley Pollan.
The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the
defendants, finding that Pollan's survival claims were
barred by the statute of limitations. Finding no error, we
affirm the trial court's judgment.
On October 8, 2008, fifty-five-year-old Shirley Pollan
("Shirley") was taken to the emergency department
at North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point
("NMMC-West Point") with complaints of dizziness,
vomiting, and an inability to stand. Blood tests revealed
that her blood sodium level was a critically low 97
mEq/L. Intravenous fluids were administered to
correct her sodium levels, and she was admitted to the
intensive care unit to the service of Dr. Andrew Wartak.
During her time in intensive care, Shirley continued to
receive IV fluids to normalize her blood sodium levels.
According to the existing guidelines at the time, blood
sodium levels should not be increased by more than ten to
twelve points in the first twenty-four hours and eighteen
points in the first forty-eight hours. Shirley's medical
records show that her sodium levels were increased by
nineteen points in the first fifteen hours and twenty-one
points in approximately thirty-one hours.
On October 11, 2008, at Pollan's request, Shirley was
transferred to NMMC-Tupelo, where she remained until October
14, 2008. Her diagnosis upon discharge was "severe
hyponatremia secondary to syndrome of inappropriate
antidiuretic hormone with mental status
changes." It was noted in her discharge record that
"she might be suffering from central pontine
myelinolysis, " or CPM, a brain cell dysfunction caused
by the destruction of the myelin sheath covering the nerve
cells in the pons, in the middle of the brain. CPM can be
caused by a rapid rise in the body's sodium levels.
Shirley was incapable of returning to work after her
discharge from NMMC-Tupelo, and over the next two years she
was treated for numerous behavioral and neurological issues.
On August 9, 2010, Shirley visited her primary care
physician, Dr. Clifton Story, at the Longest Student
Healthcare Center in Starkville. Dr. Story's record of
this visit provides, in pertinent part:
To summarize, she had been well prior to October 2008,
working as a teller at the bank where she worked many years.
She had gotten acutely ill, went to the ER and was found to
be hyponatremic. During the hospitalization her sodium was
corrected quickly. She deteriorated in the hospital,
apparently becoming nearly comatose and was transferred to
Tupelo at the insistence of her son.
She did improve subsequently but has never returned to her
normal state of being and is now disabled due to the mental
deficits and inability to perform the task required of her to
work at the bank. Her only medical diagnosis really has been
SIADH and polydipsia and some psychosis initially following
the hospitalization. I think it is reasonable to get a second
opinion as to SIADH may have been the initial cause of the
hyponatremia. However, I think the sodium was corrected
quickly and she may have developed [CPM] which may have led
to her chronic disability that she is now managing.
Story's records also indicate that Shirley was "able
to articulate well with normal/speech language" during
the visit and "[had] appropriate memory for current and
past events." Dr. Story referred Shirley to Feiyu Chen,
M.D., a neurologist at the Semmes Murphey Clinic in Memphis.
On August 24, 2010, prior to Shirley's visit at the
Semmes Murphey Clinic, a patient profile was filled out
either by Shirley or someone on her behalf. The patient
profile describes Shirley's "chief complaint"
Fatigue and delirium initially 10/08/08 and discovered had
suffered from a critical sodium and potassium drop that led
to a coma at the North MS Health (Clay County Medical
Center), West Point, MS 10/08/08. Transferred to critical
care unit North MS Health Tupelo, MS. Family told best case
scenario she was not expected to leave the hospital because
of in such severe condition upon arrival from the West Point
hospital and that the best case scenario would probably be a
vegetative state the rest of her life if she were to be able
to leave the hospital. Indicated that they appeared
misdiagnosed, brain flooded with IV (liquids) too quickly and
then removed too quickly based on the safe levels, it was too
rapid of administration trying to increase the levels.
Behavioral issues resulted and she was nowhere close to
performing a normal life compared to time prior to this
was seen by Dr. Chen on the following day. Dr. Chen's
report from this visit indicates that he initially was
suspicious of CPM, but Shirley was "doing fine right now
from a neurological standpoint." Dr. Chen ultimately did
not think that Shirley had CPM.
Shirley's health continued to decline until she
ultimately passed away on January 18, 2011. An autopsy was
performed on January 24, 2011, but the autopsy report was not
issued until July 11, 2011. The report lists Shirley"s
cause of death as "[CPM] following rapid sodium
Pollan filed a wrongful death suit against the defendants on
January 10, 2013, in the Clay County Circuit Court. The
complaint alleged that the defendants negligently failed to
render proper medical treatment to Shirley specifically
concerning her blood sodium levels, which caused her to
develop CPM. Pollan's claims for damages were separated
into wrongful death claims, survival claims, and estate
claims. Each of the defendants filed an answer to the
complaint in March 2013, and each defendant raised the
statute of limitations as a defense.
On March 6, 2015, after discovery had concluded, Dr. Wartak
filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, which the other
defendants joined. The defendants argued that the statute of
limitations for Pollan's survival claims began to run, at
the earliest on October 14, 2008, when Shirley was discharged
from NMM-Tupelo. Alternatively, the defendants alleged that,
at the latest, the statute of limitations began to run on
November 17, 2008, when Shirley visited her primary physician
and attributed her neurological problems to her admission to
NMMC-West Point. Because Pollan's complaint was filed
more than two years after either of those dates, the
defendants claimed that Pollan's survival claims were
time-barred. In response, Pollan asserted that the statute of
limitations began to run no earlier than July 11, 2011, when
Shirley's autopsy report confirmed that her cause of
death was CPM.
On November 3, 2015, the trial court issued an order granting
the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. The
trial court determined that the statute of limitations for
Pollan's survival claims had begun to run on August 24,
2010, when Shirley's patient profile at the Semmes