No. 1294 Pittsburgh, 1981, Appeal from the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Mercer County, 1969, March Term, No. 189
Henry S. Moore, Grove City, for appellant.
George Hardy Rowley, Greenville, for appellees.
Brosky, Johnson and Montgomery, JJ.
[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 519]
The history of this wrongful death action is long and tortuous. The present appeal marks the third appearance of this litigation before this Court, following the third trial in the case. As in prior appeals, the Plaintiff is again the Appellant, seeking a reversal and new trial, based upon claims of trial court error.
[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 520]
It is appropriate at the outset that we review the procedural history of the litigation. The first trial of this case, like those that followed, involved wrongful death and survival claims by the Plaintiff as administratrix of her deceased husband's estate, against the Defendant-Appellees, trading as The Bashline Hospital Association. The Plaintiff's cause of action, as more fully described below, was based upon events which occurred when she took her husband to the Defendants' hospital on May 31, 1968, as a result of his complaints of severe chest pains. After receiving little attention or care at the Defendants' facility, the Plaintiff took her husband to the office of another physician, where he shortly thereafter died, the victim of a heart attack.
At the first trial, the court entered a judgment upon a directed verdict for the Defendants. The Plaintiff appealed and our Court subsequently reversed and remanded the case for a new trial. See Hamil v. Bashline, 224 Pa. Super. 407, 307 A.2d 57 (1973), wherein this Court ruled that the lower court had erred in its conclusions on to the issue of causation. On that basis, our Court found that the Plaintiff had presented a prima facie case of negligence, and therefore held that the directed verdict for the Defendants had been improper.
No appeal was taken from that 1973 decision, and a second trial was subsequently held in the lower court. At that trial, the jury was asked to render special findings. It concluded that while the Defendants were negligent, such negligence was not the proximate cause of the decedent's death. Again, the Plaintiff filed an appeal to our Court, alleging that the trial court had failed to adhere to the 1973 holding by our Court on the first appeal. In Hamil v. Bashline, 243 Pa. Super. 227, 364 A.2d 1366 (1976), a plurality of this Court affirmed the defense verdict, on the ground that our Court had erred in ordering a new trial in the 1973 decision. The Plaintiff then appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed and ordered a new trial. See Hamil v. Bashline, 481 Pa. 256, 392 A.2d 1280 (1978). The Supreme
[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 521]
Court's decision was based essentially upon the causation issue and the Court clearly enunciated rules to be applied in future cases in our Commonwealth involving medical proof of causation.*fn1
The third trial was then held in the lower court. The Plaintiff produced the same evidence as had been adduced at the prior two trials. A recitation of that evidence is appropriate here. The record shows that at approximately 11:30 p.m. on May 31, 1968, the Plaintiff called The Bashline Hospital to report that her husband was suffering from severe chest pains. She talked to the night supervisor, Margaret Montgomery, who advised her to bring her husband into the Hospital as a doctor was present and her husband would be given medical attention. The Plaintiff transported her husband to the Hospital, arriving at 12:15 a.m. After she arrived she learned that the doctor who was assigned to emergency duty was not there and could not be located. However, Dr. John L. Johnson, one of the Defendants, had been called to the Hospital earlier that night to treat one of his own patients, and was present in the facility at the time of Mr. Hamil's arrival. When advised of Mr. Hamil's condition, Dr. Johnston took Mr. Hamil's pulse, but did not speak to him or his wife or perform any other personal diagnostic procedure. Dr. Johnston ordered an electrocardiogram ("EKG") taken. A hospital aide, Sadie Miller, made an attempt to comply with this order but the EKG machine failed to operate. Dr. Johnson tried unsuccessfully to get it to operate. The apparent reason for the failure was that the machine had been ...