South Dakota SC rules lower court erred in granting judgment to Big Stone Therapies in case over broken femur

By Davion Smith | Aug 13, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. (Legal Newsline) – The South Dakota Supreme Court has affirmed a summary judgment in favor of a hospital and reversed another in favor of a physical therapy company in a medical negligence case.

On July 25, the court affirmed the Circuit Court of the Third Judicial Circuit of Grant County's ruling of summary judgment in favor of Milbank Area Hospital Avera and reversed the summary judgment in favor of Big Stone Therapies Inc.

Plaintiffs Marvin and his wife Anita Hanson sued Big Stone Therapies Inc. and Milbank Area Hospital Avera over allegations of professional negligence in January 2016. They alleged that Big Stone Therapy “'failed to provide proper physical therapy and rehabilitation services to Anita Hanson," the Supreme Court ruling states.

They also claimed that Milbank hospital failed to diagnose her fractured femur in a timely manner. Her husband, Marvin, further alleges that the defendants' "negligence" caused him to lose "affection" and "companionship" from Anita Hanson while she was nursing her femur injury.

The Supreme Court, however, agreed with Milbank Hospital's rebuttal that the Hansons failed to identify how the hospital was negligent. The court also agreed with the hospital's contention that the Hansons failed to produce expert testimony to support their claim. The Supreme Court upheld the Circuit Court's initial ruling for summary judgment. 

On the other hand, the Supreme Court stated the Circuit Court erred when granting summary judgment to Big Stone because "it failed to demonstrate an absence of any genuine issue of material fact to show entitlement to judgment on the merits as a matter of law."

According to the ruling's background, Anita Hanson had a successful hip surgery at Prairie Lakes Hospital in South Dakota on Sept. 8, 2014.

She transferred to Milbank Hospital three days later for post-operative rehabilitation, and while being assisted into bed by hospital staff later that day, she claimed to have heard a "pop" in her groin area, which she said never caused significant pain.

The following day she reportedly underwent physical therapy sessions with a male practitioner from Big Stone Therapies who used a geriatric chair to carry out the sessions. A second physical therapist treated Anita Hanson on Sept. 14, 2014, and also reported positive progress after the session.

A third Big Stone therapist treated Anita Hanson the following day and she too used the same geriatric chair as the first session. It is alleged that sometime during the encounter with third physical therapist, the therapist forced the footrest on the chair shut, causing Anita Hanson's leg to drop sharply.

The ruling states Hanson began to experience increasing pain after the chair incident so Milbank Hospital did an X-ray, which showed that the Hanson had sustained a fracture to her right femur. She had to undergo a subsequent surgery.

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