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Hawkins v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 5, 2019

MARY HAWKINS APPELLANT
v.
TOMMIE JONES AND BAPTIST MEDICAL CENTER-LEAKE INC. APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/06/2017

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LEAKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. CHRISTOPHER A. COLLINS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ANSELM J. McLAURIN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: D. COLLIER GRAHAM JR.

         EN BANC.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. Mary Hawkins filed a medical-malpractice suit against Tommie Jones and Jones's employer, Baptist Medical Center-Leake Inc. (BMC-Leake) (collectively, the Appellees), for Jones's failure to diagnose a tendon dysfunction and stress fracture in Hawkins's left ankle. The Leake County Circuit Court granted the Appellees' summary-judgment motion after finding that the statute-of-limitations period had expired on Hawkins's claim. Because we find no error, we affirm the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the Appellees.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On February 25, 2014, Hawkins sought treatment at BMC-Leake for multiple medical complaints, including pain and swelling in her left ankle. Hawkins saw Jones, a certified family nurse practitioner employed by BMC-Leake. Hawkins informed Jones that she had twisted her ankle, and Jones recommended that Hawkins have x-rays taken. Hawkins declined the x-rays at that time. Hawkins then returned to BMC-Leake on March 13, 2014, and received treatment from Dr. William Perry. Dr. Perry ordered x-rays of Hawkins's left ankle, and Dr. Charles Pringle, an independently practicing radiologist employed by the Radiological Group, interpreted the images. In his written report, Dr. Pringle stated there was "[n]o definite acute fracture or dislocation" present.

         ¶3. Hawkins returned to BMC-Leake on July 18, 2014, and again saw Jones. After Hawkins reported that she had injured her left ankle about five days earlier, Jones referred Hawkins to radiology for x-rays on her lower leg. Drs. Gary Cirilli and Dean Tanner, both independently practicing radiologists with the Radiological Group, interpreted the x-rays. Dr. Cirilli's written report noted soft-tissue swelling around Hawkins's ankle but provided that "no fracture [wa]s identified." Dr. Tanner's written report also noted soft-tissue swelling but likewise stated that "[n]o acute fracture or dislocation" was observed.

         ¶4. Hawkins next saw Jones on July 24, 2014, when Jones once more referred Hawkins to radiology for an MRI. Hawkins refused the MRI at that time. Hawkins then saw Jones on August 26, 2014. In addition to recommending a referral to an orthopedic specialist, Jones once again recommended an MRI for Hawkins's unresolved ankle condition. Hawkins refused both of Jones's recommendations at that time. On September 9, 2014, Hawkins consented to a referral to a radiologist for an MRI. Dr. Catherine Sorrell, another independently practicing radiologist with the Radiological Group, interpreted the MRI images. Dr. Sorrell's written report contained no mention of a fracture or dislocation but noted the presence of "[e]xtensive edema, arthritis, and erosive changes throughout the joints of the ankle and midfoot."

         ¶5. Jones referred Hawkins to an orthopedic specialist at the Mississippi Sports Medicine Clinic (MSMC). Hawkins saw Dr. Jamey Burrow at MSMC on September 23, 2014. Dr. Burrow's summary from the September 23, 2014 visit indicated that he ordered additional x-rays on Hawkins's left ankle. Dr. Burrow's medical summary stated that the x-rays showed Hawkins had "a posterior tibial tendon dysfunction with a fibular stress fracture, healing." Dr. Burrow's medical summary also indicated that he had "talked to the patient about the diagnosis and treatment plan." Dr. Burrow's initial treatment plan involved placing Hawkins's left ankle in a cast and brace. If the cast and brace failed to control Hawkins's ankle injury, Dr. Burrow told Hawkins she would benefit "long term" from a surgical procedure called a tibiotalocalcaneal arthrodesis. Hawkins stated that surgery was eventually recommended either in November 2014 or on December 10, 2014, [1] and that she underwent the procedure in January 2015.

         ¶6. Hawkins provided the Appellees with a notice of claim dated October 14, 2016, and informed the Appellees of her intent to pursue a medical-malpractice claim against them. On December 13, 2016, Hawkins filed her complaint against the Appellees. The Appellees answered and asserted their affirmative defenses. On August 17, 2017, the Appellees moved for summary judgment on the ground that the statute-of-limitations period had run on Hawkins's medical-malpractice claim. On October 27, 2017, the circuit court entered an order finding "that the statute of limitations began to run on September 23, 2014[, ] when [Hawkins] became aware of her injury . . . ." Concluding that the applicable statute-of-limitations period had expired by the time Hawkins provided the Appellees with pre-suit notice of her intention to file her medical-malpractice claim, the circuit court granted the Appellees summary judgment. Aggrieved, Hawkins appeals.

         STANDARD ...


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