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Mississippi Baptist Health Systems, Inc. v. Harkins

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

February 15, 2018

MISSISSIPPI BAPTIST HEALTH SYSTEMS, INC., BAPTIST MEDICAL CENTER - LEAKE, INC., DAVID MOODY, M.D. AND MADDEN MEDICAL CLINIC, PLLC
v.
SYLVIA DIANNE HARKINS AND REGGIE HARKINS

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/26/2016

         HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WINSTON L. KIDD

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: MICHAEL T. JAQUES BOBBY L. DALLAS C. MAISON HEIDELBERG GINNY Y. KENNEDY D. COLLIER GRAHAM, JR. ALICIA S. HALL

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: D. COLLIER GRAHAM, JR. CHARLES E. COWAN GINNY Y. KENNEDY C. MAISON HEIDELBERG

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: MICHAEL T. JAQUES BOBBY L. DALLAS

          CHAMBERLIN, JUSTICE

         ¶1. In August 2014, Dianne and Reggie Harkins filed suit in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, alleging that the direct and proximate negligence of multiple healthcare providers located in Leake County and Hinds County resulted in, among other problems, the amputation of Dianne Harkins's hands and feet. In January 2015, Madden Medical Clinic, PLLC (Madden Medical) and David Moody, M.D. (Dr. Moody) filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for severance and transfer of venue to the Circuit Court of Leake County. Shortly thereafter, Baptist Medical Center-Leake, Inc. (BMC-Leake) and Mississippi Baptist Health Systems, Inc. (Baptist Health) filed a motion also to dismiss or transfer venue to the Circuit Court of Leake County.[1] A hearing was held on April 16, 2016. On February 26, 2016, the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County entered an order denying the motions of Dr. Moody, Madden Medical, BMC-Leake, and Baptist Health to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue. The parties appealed, collectively filing two interlocutory appeals, and both appeals were granted and consolidated.

         ¶2. The Court holds Section 11-11-3(3) to be clear and unambiguous. Under the plain language of Section 11-11-3(3), venue is proper for the properly joined defendants in Hinds County or Leake County, and the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. On March 11, 2013, Dianne Harkins arrived at the BMC-Leake emergency room at approximately 3:50 p.m. and complained of right flank pain. From 3:51 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., Harkins's blood pressure declined and her heart rate increased. That evening, a CT scan showed moderate to severe hydronephrosis, a dilated ureter, and the probable presence of calcifications in the right ureter. The emergency-room physician then admitted Harkins to the hospital to the care and service of Dr. Moody.

         ¶4. Dr. Moody evaluated Harkins at approximately 7:15 a.m. on March 12, 2013. After Harkins's vital signs were taken and noted at 7:48 a.m., Dr. Moody was notified of Harkins's declining condition, and he ordered medications to be administered. By 10:30 a.m., Harkins's blood pressure had dropped to 67/31. After being notified of Harkins's condition, Dr. Moody saw Harkins at approximately 10:50 a.m. At 11:15 a.m., Dr. Moody ordered Harkins to be transferred via air ambulance to Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson. Harkins was transferred at approximately 12:25 p.m. Dr. Moody's discharge summary reflected that Harkins was transferred with hydronephrosis and shock.

         ¶5. Harkins arrived at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson at approximately 1:10 p.m., and she was admitted to the emergency room. Harkins was prescribed antibiotics at 2:13 p.m. The complaint alleges that Harkins was not given antibiotics until 3:00 and/or 3:45 p.m. Harkins was then admitted to Baptist Medical Center's critical care unit with acute respiratory failure, hypotension, sepsis, septic shock, acidemia, pneumonia, renal failure syndrome, and urethral stone with urosepsis. Harkins developed more complications during her stay in the critical care unit which culminated in the development of gangrene in Harkins's hands and feet. Due to the development of gangrene, both Harkins's hands and feet were amputated.

         ¶6. On August 29, 2014, based on the events described above, Harkins filed a medical- malpractice suit. Harkins's husband, Reggie Harkins, also brought a claim for loss of consortium. In January 2015, Madden Medical and Dr. Moody filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, to sever and transfer venue to Leake County. Thereafter, BMC-Leake and Baptist Health also filed a motion to dismiss or transfer to Leake County. In their respective motions, each party cited Mississippi Code Section 11-11-3(3), arguing that Leake County is the only proper venue for each of them based on the facts.

         ¶7. On February 26, 2016, the Hinds County Circuit Court entered an order denying the motions of Dr. Moody, Madden Medical, BMC-Leake, and Baptist Health (collectively, "Leake County Appellants") to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue. Aggrieved by the denied motions to dismiss or transfer, the Leake County Appellants filed interlocutory appeals.[2] This Court granted each appeal and consolidated the appeals.[3]

         STATEMENT OF ISSUES

         ¶8. The briefs that the parties and friends of the Court have filed each set forth their rendition of the issue or issues. For clarity and conciseness, the Court has consolidated the issues into one issue with two subsections. Because the Court holds the single issue and two subsections to be case-dispositive of all additional issues brought before the Court and aptly argued during oral argument, the additional issues are not addressed.

         Whether, under Mississippi Code Section 11-11-3(3), the malpractice allegations against all the medical defendants may be brought in Hinds County, when the alleged malpractice occurred in Hinds County and in Leake County.

         (a) Whether Mississippi Code Section 11-11-3(3) is plain and unambiguous.

         (b) Whether Mississippi Code Section 11-11-3(3) prevents joinder.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶9. The Court reviews "a trial court's grant or denial of a motion for change of venue for an abuse of discretion, but questions of law, such as interpretation of the general venue statute, are reviewed de novo." Laurel Ford Lincoln-Mercury, Inc. v. Blakeney, 81 So.3d 1123, 1125 (Miss. 2012) (emphasis in original) (citing Hedgepeth v. Johnson, 975 So.2d 235, 237 (Miss. 2008)).

         ANALYSIS

         Whether, under Mississippi Code Section 11-11-3(3), the malpractice allegations against all the medical defendants may be brought in Hinds County, when the alleged ...


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