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Estate of Denmark v. Williams

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 28, 2015

ESTATE OF ARTHUR DENMARK, BY AND THROUGH HIS ADMINISTRATOR, ANTHONY W. HURST, SR., Appellant
v.
JOSEPH WILLIAMS, M.D., RAVINDRA C. HALLUR, M.D., MERCY PHILADELPHIA HOSPITAL AND MERCY HEALTH SYSTEM, Appellees

Appeal from the Order May 27, 2014, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Civil Division at No. 01133.

BEFORE: BOWES, DONOHUE and STABILE, JJ.

OPINION

Page 301

DONOHUE, J.

Appellant, the Estate of Arthur Denmark, by and through its administrator, Anthony W. Hurst, Sr. (" Hurst" ), appeals from the trial court's order dated May 27, 2014.

Page 302

On appeal, Hurst contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his claims for vicarious liability and corporate negligence against Appellees Mercy Philadelphia Hospital and Mercy Health System (together, " Mercy" or the " Mercy entities" ). For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand this case to the trial court so that Hurst may proceed on his amended complaint against the Mercy entities on his claims for vicarious liability and corporate negligence.

Hurst commenced this action on June 1, 2012 by filing a complaint naming four defendants, Ravindra C. Hallur, M.D. (" Dr. Hallur" ), Joseph Williams, M.D. (" Dr. Williams" ), and the Mercy entities. Dr. Hallur and the Mercy entities filed preliminary objections, in response to which Hurst filed an amended complaint.

In his amended complaint, Hurst alleged that Arthur Denmark (" Denmark" ) was admitted to Mercy Philadelphia Hospital on March 12, 2010 to undergo a tracheotomy as a result of his emphysema. Amended Complaint, ¶ ¶ 6-7. Hurst further alleged that after the tracheotomy, Denmark was alert and responsive until March 18, 2010, when he " was permitted to either attempt to leave his bed unassisted or fell out of his bed." Id. ¶ ¶ 8-9. His fall resulted in the dislocation of a catheter, and surgery had to be scheduled because the catheter could not be replaced at bedside. Id. ¶ ¶ 10-11. According to Hurst, during the surgery, which was performed by Dr. Williams, Denmark's bladder was severely lacerated. Id. ¶ ¶ 12-13. Hurst also alleged that following the surgery, Denmark's care was managed by Drs. Williams and Hallur. Id. ¶ 14. Gauze was negligently left in Denmark's body after the surgery was complete and the stitches applied, and blood continued to be present in Denmark's urine. Id. ¶ ¶ 15-16. Hurst contends that as a result of the Defendants' negligence, Denmark developed septic shock and died on April 2, 2010. Id. ¶ ¶ 17-18.

Counts I and II of Hurst's amended complaint set forth causes of action against Drs. Williams and Hallur, respectively, for negligence. Counts III and IV stated causes of action against the Mercy entities for vicarious liability and corporate negligence. Counts V and VI set forth causes of action for wrongful death and survival against all of the defendants.

Dr. Hallur and the Mercy entities filed preliminary objections to the amended complaint. By order dated August 31, 2012, the Honorable Allan L. Tereshko sustained the preliminary objections, ruling that

(a) all claims for punitive damages in Paragraphs 26, 33, 46 and 53 are stricken with prejudice;
(b) all references to unidentified agents, servants, employees, attending physicians, nursing staff, other support staff, administrators, boards and committees in Count III and Count IV are stricken with prejudice;
(c) Paragraphs 24(a)-(c), (e), (h)-(i) and (l)-(p) and Count IV are stricken with prejudice; and
(d) Paragraphs 24(e) and (q) are stricken with prejudice.

Trial Court Order, 8/31/2012, at 1.

On January 24, 2014, the trial court granted Dr. Williams' unopposed motion for summary judgment, dismissing all claims against him. Trial Court Order, 1/24/2014, at 1. On the date set for trial, May 23, 2014, Dr. Hallur and the Mercy entities moved in limine to preclude all evidence and testimony against Dr. Hallur because his work was not criticized in Hurst's expert report. N.T., 5/23/2014, at 3. Based upon the " law of the case as established by the order of Judge Tereshko,"

Page 303

counsel for Hurst took no position on the motion in limine. Id. at 3-4. The Honorable Shelley Robins New granted ...


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