Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to Defendant, Dr. Leslie Smith, based on quasi-judicial immunity, holding that Defendant was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity because the suit sought to hold him liable for his performance of functions integral to the judicial process. In 2011, Kenneth McFadden stabbed Virgil Brown to death in their shared apartment. At the time of the murder, McFadden was in custody of Greater Assistance to Those in Need, Inc. as part of his conditional release under Act 911 of 1989 and was serving psychiatric treatment by Dr. Smith. Plaintiff, Brown's daughter, filed this action against Dr. Smith on behalf of her father's estate, claiming that Dr. Smith's alleged failure to provide adequate treatment to McFadden rendered him liable for her father's death. The circuit court concluded that Dr. Smith was entitled to immunity because his treatment of McFadden arose solely from the conditional release order and was within the scope of that order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that to the extent Dr. Smith's actions fell within the scope of the court's order he was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. View "Martin v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court entered on the jury's verdict finding that Davis Life Care Center (DLCC), a long-term care facility, was not entitled to charitable immunity and denying DLCC's motion for new trial, holding that the circuit court erred in submitting the charitable-immunity question to the jury. Plaintiff sued DLCC alleging negligence, medical malpractice, breach of an admission agreement, and other causes of action. DLCC filed a motion for summary judgment claiming entitlement to charitable immunity. The circuit court granted the motion. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that reasonable persons could reach different conclusions based on the undisputed facts presented. The circuit court submitted the question of charitable immunity to the jury, which returned a verdict against DLCC. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the issue of charitable immunity is a question of law for the court, rather than the jury, to decide. View "Davis Nursing Ass'n v. Neal" on Justia Law

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Decedent was a resident of Courtyard Gardens Health and Rehabilitation, LLC for nearly one year when she transferred to another nursing home. Decedent subsequently executed a purported durable power of attorney in favor of Appellant. Thereafter, Appellant, as power of attorney for Decedent, filed suit against Courtyard Gardens alleging negligence, medical malpractice, and violations of the Arkansas Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Act. After Decedent died, the circuit court entered an order substituting as the nominal plaintiff Appellant, as special administrator of Decedent’s estate and on behalf of the wrongful-death beneficiaries of Decedent (“the Estate”). Courtyard Gardens moved for summary judgment, asserting that the complaint and amended complaint filed by Appellant under the power of attorney given to him by Decedent were nullities because the power of attorney was invalid and that the circuit court should dismiss the action because the statute of limitations on the Estate’s claims had expired. The circuit court granted Courtyard Gardens’ motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that the power of attorney was invalid and in granting summary judgment based on the conclusion that the complaints were nullities. View "Quarles v. Courtyard Gardens Health & Rehab., LLC" on Justia Law

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Carolyn Gray brought a medical malpractice action against White River Medical Center and its insurer (collectively, WRMC), alleging failure to intervene, vicarious liability, lack of qualified staff, nondelegable duty, and breach of contract. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor of WRMC, dismissed Gray’s breach of contract claim, and, for the remaining claims, allowed Gray ten days to amend her complaint. Gray amended her complaint. WRMC renewed its original motion to dismiss. Gray then filed a second amended complaint alleging negligent hiring of an independent contractor. WRMC moved to dismiss Gray’s additional claim. The circuit court granted WRMC’s remaining motions to dismiss. Gray appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without prejudice for lack of a final order, holding that the circuit court’s order did not contain specific factual findings that there was no just reason for delay in accordance with Ark. R. Civ. P. 54(b). View "Gray v. White River Health Sys. Inc." on Justia Law

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On December 2, 2010, Plaintiff, the husband of the decedent in this case, filed a medical-malpractice action against Defendants as attorney-in-fact for the decedent. The case was removed to federal court and then remanded to state court. On June 7, 2011, Plaintiff filed an amended and substituted complaint that added a defendant. On November 21, 2011, Plaintiff filed a new complaint essentially identical to the amended and substituted complaint in the circuit court. That complaint was removed to federal court, and the federal court stayed the action. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff lacked standing to sue. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that the November 21, 2011 complaint was the first validly filed action in this case and that the doctrine of forum non conveniens supported granting the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by electing to dismiss the complaint under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. View "Silkman v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Soc’y" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice suit against Appellants, several healthcare practitioners. Before trial, Appellants filed third-party complaints against Gary Slaton for contribution and an allocation of fault pursuant to, inter alia, the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act. The jury apportioned one hundred percent of fault to Slaton and found that Plaintiff obtained zero damages. The circuit court later vacated its previous judgment and granted a new trial based on recent decisions by the Supreme Court, concluding that the third-party complaints were not properly before the jury. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Act 1116 of 2013 could not be applied retroactively to this case because it created a new, substantive right of allocation of fault that Appellants sought to invoke in this case; and (2) any error in instructing the jury was not harmless. View "English v. Robbins" on Justia Law

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Appellant, as the special administrator of the Estate of Robert Nash, filed a wrongful-death suit against Dr. Victor Williams alleging that Dr. Williams placed a nasogastric tube against Nash’s express wishes and that he placed it improperly, thereby causing Nash to aspirate and suffer hypoxic brain injury. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Williams. On appeal, Appellant argued, among other things, that the circuit court abused its discretion in giving the jury erroneous and confusing instructions in a case premised on lack of consent. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in instructing the jury regarding the issue of informed consent. View "Millsap v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a medical-malpractice action for injuries allegedly sustained by his wife while she was a resident at Defendant’s nursing home. Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration and for dismissal, asserting that the case was controlled by a valid arbitration agreement. The circuit court entered a general denial order denying the motion to compel arbitration. Defendant subsequently filed a timely motion for specific findings of fact and conclusions of law. The circuit court did not rule on the motion, and it was deemed denied. Defendant appealed. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as untimely. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals and affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration.View "Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Soc’y v. Kolesar" on Justia Law

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Appellants filed complaints alleging claims for malpractice and wrongful death against Appellees Dr. Jeffrey Kirchner, Arkansas Health Group, Baptist Health, and Baptist MedCare, Inc. for medical injury and the wrongful death of Alfred Spires. The circuit court dismissed Appellants' complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by (1) granting judgment in favor of Appellees before the completion of discovery; (2) dismissing the complaint against Kirchner for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted; and (3) dismissing the complaint against Arkansas Health, Baptist Health, and Baptist MedCare on the ground that Appellants' claims were barred by the statute of limitations. View "Worden v. Kirchner" on Justia Law

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Bobbie Troup, in her capacity as the administrator of the estate of Easter Dawkins, filed suit alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death against Petitioners. During the trial proceedings, Troup filed a petition requesting that Petitioners be required to pay for the cost of five expert witnesses who had appeared to testify on her behalf on the scheduled trial date but did not testify because the circuit court had granted a motion for continuance made by Petitioners. The circuit court entered an order directing Petitioner to pay Troup for expert-witness costs associated with the continuance of the trial. Petitioners petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition or, in the alternative, a writ of certiorari, against the circuit court, contending that the court exceeded its authority and abused its discretion in ordering them pay the expert-witness costs of Troup. The Supreme Court denied the petitions, as Petitioners had an adequate remedy in the form of an appeal. View "Moore v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law