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Greenwood Leflore Hospital v. Bennett

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 22, 2018

GREENWOOD LEFLORE HOSPITAL APPELLANT
v.
MARK ANTHONY BENNETT AS THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JACQUELINE DEAL, DECEASED APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/21/2015

          LEFLORE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. MARGARET CAREY-MCCRAY JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JAMES LAWRENCE WILSON IV TOMMIE G. WILLIAMS

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: TIMOTHY W. PORTER JOHN TIMOTHY GIVENS

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., FAIR AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. Jacqueline Deal[1] filed this medical-negligence action against Greenwood Leflore Hospital (GLH) for personal injuries she sustained when a 4x4-inch piece of gauze was found in a wound in her left thigh. She was awarded damages after a bench trial. The judge denied GLH's motion for involuntary dismissal and later denied its motion to alter or amend the judgment or, in the alternative, motion for a new trial. On appeal, GLH argues that the trial court erred in admitting testimony from Deal's expert and in denying GLH's motion for involuntary dismissal. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On November 7, 2007, Deal sustained a serious injury to her left thigh when she was dragged by her car down the side of the road. Over the next three months, Deal was treated by various hospitals, including GLH, where a surgery to partially close the wound was performed on January 18, 2008.[2] After Deal was discharged from GLH on February 14, 2008, she received outpatient wound care, which included wet-to-dry dressing changes using gauzes, performed mostly by GLH's Wound Care/Hyperbaric Center.

         ¶3. In March 2008, Deal was evaluated for a possible skin-grafting procedure at GLH by Dr. John Payne. Her wound at that time was almost completely healed except for a deep penetrating wound to the left-groin area, which had developed purulent drainage. Dr. Payne determined that he was unable to perform the skin graft, rather referring Deal to the wound-care clinic for a wound VAC[3] and antibiotics. In between trips to the wound-care center, Deal continued to have her dressings changed at her home by Continue Care Home Health and her sister.[4]

         ¶4. On her May 5, 2008 visit to the wound-care center, Deal's wound had almost completely healed except for a small opening near her groin that emitted purulent odor. By May 8, 2008, the drainage coming from the small opening had increased, and on June 11, 2008, the drainage became bloody; her pain increased. On July 1, 2008, the pain became significant, and Deal reported to the GLH emergency room, where she was treated and instructed to follow up with Dr. Payne.

         ¶5. On July 15, 2008, Deal returned to the wound-care center where it was discovered that her wound had worsened with purulent yellowish, brownish, greenish drainage; a foul odor; and what appeared to be an abscess. She was admitted to GLH where an MRI was conducted. It revealed fluid collection consistent with a subcutaneous abscess. On July 18, 2008, a nurse performed a pulse lavage[5] in the wound, which resulted in the nurse seeing something in the wound, and, using tweezers, the nurse removed a 4x4-inch piece of gauze from the wound.

         ¶6. Deal filed suit seeking damages from GLH on August 30, 2009, and on September 30, 2009, she amended her complaint. The amended complaint alleged that GLH breached the applicable medical standards of care in treating her wound and causing a delay in the healing process. On November 5, 2009, GLH answered and moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of pretrial notice. After a hearing on the matter, the trial court denied GLH's motion to dismiss, and discovery ensued. During discovery, Dr. Carrol McLeod was designated as Deal's expert, and on January 11, 2011, GLH deposed Dr. McLeod.

         ¶7. The court held a bench trial from April 18-21, 2011. GLH objected to Dr. McLeod testifying as to the standard of care of a wound-care professional. The judge considered the objection, allowed Dr. McLeod to testify as an expert in pain management and anesthesiology, and permitted Dr. McLeod to "give opinions about the effect of having a foreign body in a wound." After cross-examination, GLH moved to exclude Dr. McLeod's testimony based upon Deal's failure to timely supplement Dr. McLeod's opinions and Dr. McLeod's lack of qualifications. The judge denied GLH's motion.

         ¶8. At the close of Deal's proof, GLH moved for involuntary dismissal pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 41, arguing that Deal had not articulated an objective standard of care for any medical professional in any specialty or field of practice. Further, GLH re-urged its motion to strike Dr. McLeod's testimony for failure to supplement the disclosures of his trial court opinions. The trial court denied GLH's motions.

         ¶9. On September 8, 2015, the trial court issued its "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, " finding that Deal's wound was delayed in healing because of the 4x4-inch piece of gauze left in her wound between January and February while at GLH. Further, the court found that due to GLH's negligence, Deal was unable to obtain a teaching contract for the 2008-09 school year. Therefore, the trial court awarded Jacqueline $185, 000 in compensatory damages. Unhappy with the trial court's decision, GLH moved to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 59. Alternatively, GLH requested a new trial. The trial court denied GLH's post-trial motion. Aggrieved, GLH appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶10. "In reviewing the decision of a trial judge sitting without a jury, this Court may only reverse when the findings of the trial judge are manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous." Sacks v. Necaise, 991 So.2d 615, 619 (¶6) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007) (citing Singley v. Smith, 844 So.2d 448, 451 (¶9) (Miss. 2003)). When sitting without a jury, a trial judge's findings are reviewed with the same deference as a chancellor-his or her findings will not be overturned if supported by substantial, credible, and reasonable evidence. Delta Reg'l Med. Ctr. v. Taylor, 112 So.3d 11, 20 (ΒΆ21) (Miss. Ct. App. 2012). "Additionally, when sitting as the finder of fact, the trial judge has the sole authority for determining the ...


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