Miss. SC says hospital not liable for man's death

Jessica M. Karmasek Jul. 27, 2011, 1:46pm

JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - The Mississippi Supreme Court last week ruled in favor of a Calhoun City hospital sued over a man's death.

After John Sykes died in the emergency room of Calhoun Health Services, his estate sued the hospital for wrongful death. The family claimed Sykes should have been hooked up to a cardiac monitor.

A Calhoun County Circuit Court judge found the estate had failed to provide that CHS deviated from the applicable standard of care and failed to prove that use of a cardiac monitor would have made a difference.

The Court, in its July 21 decision, affirmed the judge's ruling. Justice Jess H. Dickinson wrote the opinion.

Sykes' estate had argued that the hospital's busy ER did not excuse its failure to initiate Advanced Cardiac Life Support because the standard of care is the same, regardless of the ER traffic at the time he arrived.

However, the estate cited no authority for this proposition, the Court said.

"This Court has held that the minimum standard of care depends in part on 'the circumstances of each patient,' and is to be compared to minimally competent practitioners 'who have available to them the same general facilities, services, equipment and options.'

"In considering the applicable standard of care, the trial judge properly considered the circumstances existing at the ER when Sykes arrived," it wrote.

The hospital also produced expert testimony from which the trial court reasonably could have concluded that CHS satisfied the standard of care applicable to the circumstances existing at the time, the Court said.

One doctor testified that none of Sykes' responses revealed symptoms that "sounded cardiovascular in nature," and therefore the hospital's actions were appropriate.

The trial court also was not required to accept the estate's theory of causation, the Court said.

"In short, both sides presented conflicting theories, each supported by ample expert testimony. Under such circumstances, it is the role of the fact-finder to resolve the conflict. In this case, the trial judge resolved the conflict in favor of CHS, and the estate offers no basis for its contention that the judge's resolution of this issue was manifestly wrong," it wrote.

The estate's issues concern factual determinations that were within the discretion of the trial court, the Court concluded.

"The estate presents no meritorious argument that the trial court was manifestly wrong," it wrote.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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