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Thomas v. Lewis

Supreme Court of Mississippi

December 5, 2019

MARY THOMAS
v.
ADAM LEWIS, M.D., JACKSON NEUROSURGERY CLINIC, PLLC AND JACKSON HMA, LLC d/b/a CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/19/2017

          HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. HON. WILLIAM A. GOWAN JR. JUDGE.

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: WILLIAM WES FULGHAM J. MICHAEL COLEMAN LOUIS G. BAINE III

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: WILLIAM WES FULGHAM

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: J. MICHAEL COLEMAN CARL HAGWOOD STEPHEN P. KRUGER LOUIS G. BAINE III T. L. “SMITH” BOYKIN III

          BEFORE KING, P.J., COLEMAN AND BEAM, JJ.

          COLEMAN, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. Mary Thomas awoke, paralyzed, from surgery. She filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Adam Lewis, who performed the surgery. Thomas claims that her injuries stem from two neurosurgeries performed by Dr. Lewis. Thomas also filed suit against Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic and Central Mississippi Medical Center based on vicarious liability.

         ¶2. Thomas's medical malpractice claims are based on an alleged failure of Dr. Lewis to manage Thomas's mean arterial blood pressure during the first surgery and Dr. Lewis's decision to perform the second surgery. However, the issue on appeal involves the reliability of expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Thomas's expert, neurosurgeon Dr. Neil Wright, claimed that Dr. Lewis had failed to provide the proper standard of care and, in turn, caused Thomas's injuries. However, Dr. Lewis argues that Dr. Wright's opinions were not reliable because they were inconsistent with medical literature.

         ¶3. At trial, Dr. Lewis conducted a voir dire of Dr. Wright and questioned his expert opinion regarding the surgeries. Dr. Lewis challenged Dr. Wright's opinions as unreliable under Daubert. The trial court agreed, struck Dr. Wright's opinions, and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Dr. Lewis with regard to the first surgery. The trial court also ruled that Dr. Wright could testify to negligence regarding the second surgery.

         ¶4. The trial court allowed Thomas to proceed on claims related to the second surgery. Dr. Wright admitted that the decision to perform the second surgery was a judgment call and that he failed to testify that making the decision to proceed with a second surgery was a breach of the standard of care. The trial court considered the evidence and found that Mary Thomas had failed to offer admissible proof from which a reasonable juror could find that Dr. Lewis deviated from a professional standard of care. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of Dr. Lewis, Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, and Central Mississippi Medical Center, and Thomas appealed. We affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶5. On July 14, 2011, Mary Thomas went to the emergency room at Central Mississippi Medical Center with complaints of extreme pain. She received a diagnosis of a severe cord compression in her spine. Neurosurgeon Adam Lewis, who was the on-call doctor, met with Thomas on July 16, 2011. He told Thomas that he was from St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital. Dr. Lewis found that Thomas's condition was deteriorating, and he recommended surgery the next morning. Thomas agreed with his recommendation. Dr. Lewis performed a fusion of Thomas's cervical vertebrae, and she awoke suffering from quadriparesis. She alleged that a drop in her blood pressure during surgery caused the injury. Dr. Lewis performed a second surgery, hoping to help Thomas, but the second surgery did not fully resolve her difficulties.

         ¶6. Thomas filed a medical negligence action against Dr. Lewis, Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, and Central Mississippi Medical Center. Thomas alleged that Dr. Lewis committed medical negligence when caring for her at Central Mississippi Medical Center. She also alleged that Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic and Central Mississippi Medical Center are vicariously liable for Dr. Lewis's negligence. The case proceeded to trial on June 26, 2017. Thomas claimed that Dr. Lewis had failed to properly manage Thomas's mean arterial blood pressure. In ...


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