Appeal from Colbert Circuit Court. (CV-92-211). N. Pride Tompkins, TRIAL JUDGE.
Released for Publication February 20, 1996.
Robertson, Presiding Judge, Thigpen, Yates, Monroe, and Crawley, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robertson
ROBERTSON, Presiding Judge
This is a medical malpractice case in which Randall Lee Sledge appeals from a summary judgment entered in favor of Colbert County Northwest Alabama Healthcare Authority. We affirm. This case is before this court pursuant to § 12-2-7, Ala. Code 1975.
On April 12, 1990, Randall Sledge suffered a head trauma while he was at the Club XIII Lounge, in Sheffield, Alabama. After being taken by ambulance to Helen Keller Hospital, Sledge was treated by Dr. John Grow and Nurse Connie Pounders. Sledge was diagnosed with head trauma and alcohol intoxication, and he was released approximately one and one-half hours after he was admitted. Sixteen hours later, Sledge was admitted via ambulance to Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital with a right-side subdural hematoma. Brain surgery was subsequently performed, and Sledge was in a coma for 22 days.
On April 9, 1992, Sledge filed a complaint in the Colbert County Circuit Court against the Colbert County Northwest Alabama Healthcare Authority, d/b/a Helen Keller Hospital (the Hospital), Dr. Larry Layne, and certain fictitiously named defendants, alleging medical malpractice. Count one of the complaint alleged that on April 12, 1990, the defendants negligently provided medical services to Sledge and that they negligently breached the acceptable standards of practice by failing to adequately diagnose and treat an acute subdural hematoma. The complaint further alleged that as a result of the defendants' negligence, Sledge had suffered a permanent injury. Count two of the complaint alleged that a hospital-patient relationship existed between the Hospital and Sledge, that the Hospital had impliedly contracted to attend and to care for Sledge, that the Hospital had failed to perform or to fulfill its implied contract, and that as a result of the Hospital's failure, Sledge had suffered permanent brain damage.
On May 4, 1992, the Hospital filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. That same day, Sledge filed an amended complaint substituting Dr. John Grow for fictitious defendant "E." Dr. Grow answered, denying the material allegations of the amended complaint and stating that the amended complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because, he stated, the complaint did not comply with § 6-5-551, Ala. Code 1975, and the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Hospital filed a separate answer, asserting that the complaint failed to state a claim and denying that it had negligently provided medical services to Sledge. Dr. Layne also filed an answer. On August 20, 1992, Sledge filed a motion to dismiss Dr. Layne because Dr. Layne had had no involvement in the medical care and treatment of Sledge. Dr. Layne was dismissed the next day.
On January 8, 1993, Sledge filed a second amended complaint, substituting Connie Pounders, a licensed practical nurse, for fictitious defendants "D" and "F." On August 18, 1993, Dr. Grow filed a motion for summary judgment; the motion was supported by the pleadings, Dr. Grow's deposition, Sledge's response to Dr. Grow's interrogatories and requests for production, the affidavit of Larry D. Dixon, and testimony from the deposition of Connie Pounders. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Insurance Company filed a motion to intervene and a complaint in intervention on September 3, 1993. Sledge filed a third amended complaint on September 8, 1993, to substitute Regional Emergency Services, Inc., for fictitious defendants "C", "D", and "K." On September 20, 1993, Dr. Grow filed a supplement to his motion for a summary judgment, adding his own affidavit, the affidavit of the custodian of records at the Hospital, testimony from Sledge's deposition, Sledge's answers to Dr. Grow's requests for admissions, and testimony from the deposition of Julia Sledge (Sledge's mother).
On February 7, 1994, Pounders filed an amended answer, denying that she was guilty of any negligence or malpractice, and averring that Sledge's second amended complaint, substituting her for fictitious defendants "D" and "F," was barred by the statute of limitations. Pounders also filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court entered a summary judgment on February 25, 1994, in favor of Dr. Grow, because, it held, Sledge's first amended complaint, substituting Dr. Grow for fictitious defendant "E," was barred by the statute of limitations. Sledge filed a Rule 59, Ala.R.Civ.P, motion, which was denied. On April 14, 1994, the trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Pounders, holding that the second amended complaint filed by Sledge was also barred by the statute of limitations.
On September 16, 1994, the Hospital moved for a summary judgment, claiming that there was no genuine issue of material fact and that it was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law, because: (1) Dr. Grow, it said, was an independent contractor and not an agent, servant, or employee of the Hospital; (2) Dr. Grow had discharged Sledge; (3) the care given Sledge at the Hospital was not the proximate cause of his resulting injuries; and (4) Dr. Grow and Pounders each had received a summary judgment. On January 23, 1995, Sledge filed a response to the Hospital's motion for summary judgment, along with affidavits from Ann Bailey Allen and Jesse V. Hayes. That same day, the Hospital filed a motion to strike the affidavits because, it said, the affidavits did not comply with § 6-5-548, Ala. Code 1975.
On January 24, 1995, the trial court conducted a hearing on the Hospital's motion for summary judgment. The next day, Sledge filed a fourth amended complaint, adding an allegation that the Hospital was "negligent in hiring and supervising its nursing staff and medical staff" and alleging that the Hospital had "failed to implement procedures, guidelines, policies or rules to prevent discharge of head trauma patients in need of third-party observation without assuring its discharge of the patient is being made to a third party capable and responsible for implementing the head injury precautions." On January 27, 1995, the Hospital moved to strike the amended complaint, claiming that the amended complaint had been filed the day after the Hospital's motion for summary judgment was argued and submitted to the trial court; that the statutory limitations period had run; and that the amended complaint constituted a "whole new cause of action."
On January 30, 1995, the trial court entered an order striking the affidavits of Ann Bailey Allen and Jessie V. Hayes. The trial court also entered a summary judgment for the Hospital, based upon two independent grounds: (1) that Sledge had failed to rebut the Hospital's properly supported motion for summary judgment with substantial evidence; and (2) that the summary judgment for Pounders constituted an adjudication on the merits as between Pounders and Sledge and, therefore, that the Hospital could not be held liable under the theory of respondeat superior, the only theory of liability advanced against the Hospital during the statutory period. On March 8, 1995, the trial court entered a default judgment for $500,000 against Regional Emergency Services, Inc., the only remaining defendant.
Sledge appeals from the summary judgment for the Hospital, arguing that the trial court erred in (1) holding that the summary judgment for Pounders barred a recovery against the Hospital for vicarious liability; (2) striking the affidavits of Allen and Hayes; and (3) determining that Sledge had failed to present substantial evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact. Sledge also argues that the trial court erred in holding that Sledge had not pleaded corporate ...