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Peronis v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 9, 2019

CARISSA PERONIS, individually and as administratrix of the estate of Kendall Peronis, and MATTHEW FRITZIUS, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, VALLEY MEDICAL FACILITIES, INC., t/d/b/a HERITAGE VALLEY PEDIATRICS, VALLEY MEDICAL FACILITIES, INC., t/d/b/a HERITAGE VALLEY BEAVER, and HILARY JONES, M.D., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          NORA BARRY FISCHER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         AND NOW, this 9th day of September, 2019, the Court writes to confirm its oral order on September 4, 2019 (Docket No. 202) denying the Motion for Directed Verdict filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 by Defendant Valley Medical Facilities, Inc. t/d/b/a Heritage Valley Beaver (“Heritage Valley Beaver”) (Docket No. [196]). The Court previously considered said motion, the brief in support thereof (Docket No. 197), and heard oral argument on September 4, 2019.

         A motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) may be made at any time before the case is submitted to the jury. Ponzini v. Primecare Med., Inc., 269 F.Supp.3d 444, 498 (M.D. Pa. 2017) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(2)). If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may (a) resolve the issue against the party; and (b) grant judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue. Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(2)).

         When deciding a Rule 50(a) motion, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, giving the non-moving party the benefit of every fair and reasonable inference. Galena v. Leone, 638 F.3d 186, 196 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Beck v. City of Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d 966, 971 (3d Cir. 1996)). The motion should be granted only if the evidence is not sufficient for a jury reasonably to find liability. Id. To this end, the court must “refrain from weighing the evidence, determining the credibility of witnesses, or substituting its own version of the facts for that of the jury.” Eshelman v. Agere Sys., Inc., 554 F.3d 426, 433 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Marra v. Phila. Hous. Auth., 497 F.3d 286, 300 (3d Cir. 2007)).

         In this case, the moving defendant, Heritage Valley Beaver, argued that the trial record could not support a finding of corporate negligence because the plaintiffs had not provided expert testimony demonstrating that the hospital deviated from the standard of care. (Docket No. 197 at 10). For the reasons that follow and for those stated on the record, this Court disagrees. Contrary to Heritage Valley Beaver's assertion, this Court found that there is expert testimony of record from which a reasonable jury could determine: (1) whether the hospital's policies comported with the standard of care and (2) whether those policies were or were not followed.[1]

         “Corporate negligence is a doctrine under which the hospital is liable if it fails to uphold the proper standard of care owed [to] the patient, which is to ensure the patient's safety and well-being while at the hospital.” Welsh v. Bulger, 698 A.2d 581, 585 (Pa. 1997) (quoting Thompson v. Nason Hosp., 591 A.2d 703, 707 (Pa. 1991)) (emphasis added). “This theory of liability creates a nondelegable duty which the hospital owes directly to a patient.” Id. (quoting Thompson, 591 A.2d at 707). Here, we have two patients, Carissa Peronis and Kendall Peronis.

         To establish a prima facie case of corporate negligence, the plaintiffs must establish each of the following elements:

“1. the hospital deviated from the standard of care;
2. the hospital had actual or constructive notice of the defects or procedures that created the harm; and
3. the hospital's act or omission was a substantial factor in bringing about the harm.”

Kennedy v. Butler Memorial Hosp., 901 A.2d 1042, 1045 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2006); see Sensenich v. Morcos, 205 A.3d 375, 383 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2019). A hospital owes the following duties to a patient:

(1) a duty to use reasonable care in the maintenance of safe and adequate facilities and equipment; (2) a duty to select and retain only competent physicians; (3) a duty to oversee all persons who practice medicine within its walls as to patient care; and (4) a duty to formulate, adopt and enforce adequate rules and policies to ensure quality care for the patients.

Welsh, 698 A.2d at 585 (quoting Thompson., 591 A.2d at 707).

It is well established that a hospital staff member or employee has a duty to recognize and report abnormalities in the treatment and condition of its patients. . . . . If the attending physician fails to act after being informed of such abnormalities, it is then incumbent upon the hospital staff member or employee to so advise the hospital authorities so that appropriate action might be taken. . . . When there is a failure to report changes in a patient's condition and/or to question a physician's order which is not ...

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