MEDICAL MALPRACTICE - PIERCING THE CORPORATE VEIL - HILL V. FAIRFIELD NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER, LLC
Hill v. Fairfield Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC, [Ms. 1090549, Oct. 19, 2012] __ So. 3d __(Ala. 2012). Myrtis Hill fell and broke her leg at Fairfield Nursing Home while being helped from her bed by a certified nursing assistant. Fairfield argued that Hill's expert, a registered nurse, was not a similarly situated health care provider, because Fairfield used a physical therapist to determine the level of assistance to be given to residents when they are moved. The Court disagreed, holding that the certified nursing assistant was providing nursing care, so the standard of care was that of a nurse. Fairfield next argued that Hill did not present sufficient expert evidence of causation, because her orthopedic-surgeon witness testified that the "fracture pattern is very much consistent with" Hill's description of her fall. The Court again disagreed, holding that the surgeon's testimony, viewed as a whole, was that, more probably than not, the fracture was caused by the fall, not by an osteoporosis-induced break before the fall. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this opinion is the ruling that the various entities with ownership interests should not have been granted summary judgments. Two individuals owned two LLCs, which in turn owned subsidiary LLCs. After a long discussion of pertinent law, and a recitation of Hill's "extensive evidentiary submission," the Court held: "We cannot help but conclude that there exists a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the defendants operated as a single business enterprise as to which Fairfield was an alter ego." The Court reversed the judgment as to all defendants.