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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ordinary Negligence Claim in a Healthcare Setting

Monday the Tennessee Court of Appeals (Middle Section) released its opinion in Vice v. Elmcroft of Hendersonville, No. M2010-01148-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 22, 2011). The summary at the beginning of the opinion states as follows:

The daughter of an eighty-seven year old woman was looking for an assisted living facility for her mother, who was suffering from dementia. Elmcroft of Hendersonville assured the daughter that it could care for her mother and admitted her after the daughter informed it of her concern about her mother’s risk for falls. Three weeks following her admission the mother fell, and then fell three more times before the daughter moved her out of Elmcroft. The final fall resulted in a broken clavicle, which caused the mother pain and decreased mobility for the rest of her life. The daughter, as her mother’s representative, sued Elmcroft and its administrator for negligence and negligent admission and retention of her mother. A jury awarded a judgment against the defendants for $250,000. There was evidence the Elmcroft staff did not follow Elmcroft’s fall prevention policies and procedures. Elmcroft argued that all claims filed against it involved matters of medical science or art requiring specialized skills not ordinarily possessed by lay persons, and, therefore, this was a medical malpractice which should have been dismissed since the statutory requirements for such a claim had not been met. We conclude, based on the evidence herein, that the claims were ordinary negligence claims. Elmcroft also argued (1) the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the negligence of the daughter and a physician from another state who indicated the mother may be cared for by an assisted living facility and (2) that the jury award was excessive, contained a punitive component, and was the result of passion, prejudice and caprice. We conclude the court did not err in refusing to charge the jury on the physician’s comparative fault or the daughter’s comparative negligence. We also conclude there was material evidence to support the jury’s award of damages. Consequently, we affirm.
Here's a link to the slip opinion:

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