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Yerks v. Trest

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

June 12, 2018

VALERIE J. YERKS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR SON APPELLANT
v.
ELIZABETH A. TREST, M.D. AND WOMAN'S GROUP OF MERIDIAN PLLC APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/26/2016

          LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JUSTIN MILLER COBB JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: BRADLEY S. CLANTON

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: JAMES H. HEIDELBERG RICHARD WILLIAM FRANKLIN WHITMAN B. JOHNSON III APRIL LEIGH McDONALD LORRAINE WALTERS BOYKIN

          BEFORE LEE, C.J, BARNES AND TINDELL, JJ.

          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. In this medical-malpractice case, we must determine whether the trial court erred when it granted Dr. Elizabeth Trest's and Woman's Group of Meridian's motions for summary judgment, finding that Valerie Yerks's medical expert failed to establish the necessary element of causation. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On January 2, 2004, Yerks, who was 40-weeks pregnant, was seen by her OBGYN, Dr. Trest, at Woman's Group of Meridian. Dr. Trest evaluated Yerks at the clinic, and then sent her to Riley Memorial Hospital for an additional work-up. She then determined that Yerks's labor should be induced because she was a few days past 40-weeks gestation and had oligohydramnios, or low amniotic fluid. Yerks was admitted to the hospital and her labor induced on January 2, 2004, around 4:30 p.m. External fetal monitoring was performed throughout the labor and at times revealed heart decelerations (decreased or drop in heart rate) and bradycardia (slow heart rate). Dr. Trest was informed by medical staff via phone of Yerks's symptoms and progress throughout the labor including the decelerations and bradycardic heartrate. Yerks went into active labor around 1:00 a.m. on January 3, 2004, and complete cervical dilation occurred at 4:05 a.m. Dr. Trest arrived to the hospital at 4:26 a.m., and delivered the baby at 4:43 a.m. via vacuum-assisted extraction. Yerks gave birth to a male child, Tyler, [1] weighing 7 pounds 9 ounces.

         ¶3. After Tyler was born, it was noted that he suffered from macrocephaly (abnormally large head); severe hearing loss (profound deafness); and optic nerve hypoplasia with nystagmus (legal blindness).

         ¶4. On December 29, 2011, Yerks, individually and on behalf of her minor son, Tyler, filed a complaint for medical negligence against Dr. Trest and Woman's Group (collectively "Dr. Trest").[2] Yerks claimed that Dr. Trest committed medical negligence by failing to properly monitor and provide appropriate medical treatment during Yerks's labor and Tyler's birth, causing Tyler's life-long injuries, including deafness; vision impairment; walking disability; and emotional, behavioral, and intellectual disability.

         ¶5. On November 21, 2013, after various motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment, the parties stipulated that Yerks's individual claims were time-barred, and the trial court entered an order accordingly. The trial court also found that Dr. Trest's motion for summary judgment was premature and additional discovery was necessary. The summary-judgment motions were held in abeyance until discovery was complete. On May 26, 2016, the trial court, finding that Yerks failed to establish the essential element of causation, issued a memorandum opinion and order granting summary judgment in favor of Dr. Trest. From this order, Yerks, on behalf of Tyler, now appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6. "A trial court's grant of summary judgment is reviewed de novo." Johnson v. Pace, 122 So.3d 66, 68 (¶8) (Miss. 2013). "Summary judgment is proper if 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Id. (quoting M.R.C.P. 56(c)). ...


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