Montgomery, Ala

The Alabama Supreme Court, reversing a Montgomery judge’s ruling, cleared the way for a man who suffered severe burns as a patient at Jackson Hospital to sue the hospital and doctors who treated him.

Thomas Keene of Montgomery, an attorney for the hospital and doctors named in the suit, could not be reached for comment.

Court records do not show how the patient, Roy Lee Miller, was burned on Jan. 14, 1997. Miller’s attorney, David Wirtes of Mobile, declined to say.

“It’s just not material to your story,” Wirtes said. “He was burned in a hospital bed at a time when he was unable to care for himself.”

The court - with no dissent - said Miller’s uncle, Charles Miller, as “durable power of attorney,” should have been allowed to file the damage suit on his nephew’s behalf.

Court records show that on Jan. 11, 1999, “just three days before the statutory limitations period would have run out on Roy Lee’s personal-injury claims arising from his burns, Charles filed a medical-malpractice action captioned ‘Charles Miller, on behalf of Roy Lee Miller v. Jackson Hospital and Clinic, Raghu Makkamala, M.D.; Glenn Yates, M.D. and Primary Care Internists of Montgomery.

“The complaint alleged that negligence on the part of the defendants had caused Roy Lee’s injuries,” according to the decision.

The defendants claimed the suit wrongly named Charles Miller instead of his nephew as the “real party in interest.”

On Aug. 16, 1999, after the expiration of the limitation period, Charles amended the complaint by adding Roy Lee as a named plaintiff. Three days later the court entered a summary judgment in favor of all defendants.

The decision written by Justice Champ Lyons reversed the summary judgment and ordered the case sent back to circuit court “with Roy Lee substituted as plaintiff.”

Wirtes said Roy Lee Miller is “recuperating. He has permanent injuries. There was disfigurement from the burns.”

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