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Hyde v. Martin

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

January 31, 2019

EDWARD A. HYDE AND PATTIE HYDE
v.
LINUS BAXTER MARTIN, III, M.D. AND RUSH MEDICAL FOUNDATION d/b/a RUSH FOUNDATION HOSPITAL

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/05/2017

          LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LESTER F. WILLIAMSON, JR. TRIAL JUDGE.

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: WALTER C. MORRISON, IV WILLIAM T. MAY KACEY GUY BAILEY JAMES CORNELIUS GRIFFIN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: WALTER C. MORRISON, IV

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: KACEY GUY BAILEY WILLIAM T. MAY

          MAXWELL, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. Edward and Pattie Hyde brought a medical-negligence case based on loss of chance. Their theory was that the treating physician's and hospital's failure to properly test for and timely diagnose Edward's stroke resulted in his not receiving treatment-namely, an injection of Tissue Plasminogen Activator, or "tPA," which they claim would have led to a better stroke recovery.

         ¶2. The trial court dismissed this claim on summary judgment. On appeal, the Hydes ask this Court to abandon our long-standing precedent on loss of chance. They prefer we allow them to recover for the "reduced likelihood of a recovery." But this Court has been clear "that Mississippi law does not permit recovery of damages because of mere diminishment of the 'chance of recovery.'" Clayton v. Thompson, 475 So.2d 439, 445 (Miss. 1985). Instead, "[r]ecovery is allowed only when the failure of the physician to render the required level of care results in the loss of a reasonable probability of substantial improvement of the plaintiff's condition." Id.

         ¶3. That said, we find the trial court erred in dismissing the Hydes' claim on summary judgment. Consistent with our loss-of-chance standard, the Hydes presented expert medical testimony that the majority of stroke patients who timely receive tPA experience substantial improvement. Because their expert supported his opinion with medical literature, we find the trial judge abused his discretion by excluding this testimony.

         ¶4. The Hydes' expert testimony created a material fact dispute over whether the Hydes may recover for loss of chance. We thus reverse the order granting summary judgment and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Background Facts and Procedural History

         I. Edward's Stroke

         ¶5. In 2014, then fifty-three-year-old Edward went to the Rush Foundation Hospital emergency department with complaints of nausea, vomiting, and right-side numbness and weakness. His wife Pattie claimed Edward also was having difficulty walking and falling to one side. While Dr. Linus Baxter Martin III did not examine Edward personally, Dr. Martin supervised the nurse practitioner who did. The nurse practitioner ordered a CT scan, which according to the radiologist showed "[n]o acute intracranial abnormality." But the radiologist cautioned that if there was a high clinical concern for an acute stroke, then an MRI should be conducted. The nurse practitioner did not order an MRI. And Edward was discharged hours later with a diagnosis of gastroenteritis and hypertension.

         ¶6. Twelve hours later, Edward returned to the hospital, unable to walk normally. This time the hospital admitted him for a neurological consultation. An MRI was ordered, which revealed Edward had suffered an ischemic stroke. At that point, Edward's treating physician, Dr. James Perkins, noted that administering the clot-buster drug tPA to restore blood flow to Edward's brain was no longer an option. The drug could not be administered because Edward had been experiencing stroke symptoms for more than sixteen hours.[1]

         ¶7. Edward remained in the hospital for five days. He was then transferred to a rehabilitation facility for ten more days. He left the rehabilitation facility with permanent parenthesia of his right limbs and now cannot walk without a cane or walker.

         II. The Hydes' Lawsuit

         ¶8. Eight months after his stroke, the Hydes sued Dr. Martin and Rush Foundation Hospital. They asserted that Edward had presented to the emergency department with signs of a stroke, but the defendants negligently failed to perform a comprehensive neurological exam, failed to order an MRI and neurology consultation, and failed to administer anticoagulants. Had the defendants conformed to the requisite standard of care, the Hydes claim Edward would not have suffered permanent injuries from his stroke.

         ¶9. The Hydes designated Dr. Michael Stodard[2] and Dr. Hooman Kamal[3] as their medical experts. Dr. Martin and the hospital moved to limit or exclude both Dr. Stodard's and Dr. Kamal's expert testimony. They claimed the expert opinions were not reliable because the opinions were not supported by medical literature. The defendants ...


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