(251) 299-0101

Medical Negligence; Verdict New Trial

HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Gadsden, LLC v. Honts, [Ms. 1160045, 1160068, Sept. 28, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2018). In this plurality opinion authored by Justice Sellers (Stuart, C.J., concurs; Bolin, Parker, Shaw, Main, Wise, and Bryan, JJ., concur in the result), the Court reverses a $20 million judgment entered on a jury verdict in a medical negligence wrongful death case filed against HealthSouth Gadsden based upon the Etowah Circuit Court's refusal to give the hospital's requested jury instruction.

The Court initially concludes the circuit court properly denied HealthSouth Gadsden's motion for JML, as there was sufficient expert testimony to the effect that the jury could reasonably infer that a hospital nurse improperly over-administered an opioid to the patient's decedent. Ms. *11-18.

However, the Court concludes the circuit court erred in denying HealthSouth Gadsden's motion for new trial, which alleged the circuit court charged the jury on the incorrect standard of care. The hospital objected to the plaintiff's request that the jury be charged on the duty of care owed by hospitals when plaintiff's expert testimony supported only the claim that there had been a breach of a duty of care by a hospital nurse. Thus, the circuit court erred in giving the jury a charge derived from Alabama Pattern Jury Instruction-Civil 25.02 entitled "Standard of Care for Hospital," when it should have given the hospital's proposed requested charges on the liability of a nurse. Ms. *19-33.

The Court also rejected the plaintiff's cross-appeal which contended the circuit court exceeded its discretion in denying its request for production of a nurse's personnel files. Quoting Ex parte Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 92 So. 3d 90, 102 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012), and its heightened evidentiary requirements before personnel files will be required to be disclosed (Ms. *33-34), the Court concludes there was insufficient evidence presented to warrant production of a particular nurse's personnel files absent proof that particular nurse was connected to the events causing the death of plaintiff's decedent.

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