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Taylor v. Hughes

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

August 28, 2017




         For the reasons below, the Court denies Defendant Advanced E.M.S., Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment [112].

         I. Background

         This is a wrongful death and medical malpractice case arising from an apparent single-vehicle accident.[1] A state trooper at the scene of the incident reported that Taylor “lost control of the vehicle, left the roadway and collided with an embankment” which “ejected him from the truck, as there was no driver's door on the vehicle.”

         At 7:59 p.m., employees of Defendant Advanced E.M.S., Inc. (“AEMS”) - Brooke Beam, an EMT, and Reba Reese, a paramedic - responded to the call. Taylor told Beam and Reese that he had been drinking, and that his back hurt. A Sheriff's deputy told Beam and Reese that Taylor was drunk.[2] They performed an evaluation, taking his heart rate and oxygen saturation, looking for visible injuries, and observing his respiration. But they did not perform hands-on palpitation of his abdomen, back, or torso. They also did not use a stethoscope to listen to his heart or breathing. In fact, they did not take their equipment bag out of the ambulance.

         Taylor refused further examination and would not permit them to take his blood pressure. He also refused to be transported to the hospital because he would not be able to take his hunting dogs with him. Beam and Reese tried to call Online Medical Direction to get instructions from a physician, but they had no cell service. Taylor signed an acknowledgment that he had refused transport after being informed of the risk, and Beam and Reese released him to law enforcement.

         A state trooper arrested Taylor for driving under the influence and transported him to the Covington County Jail at approximately 9:33 p.m. The next morning, Taylor complained of pain, but he said he would be okay until the nurse arrived. Between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., law enforcement called Defendant to transport Taylor to the hospital, but he died en route. Subsequent investigation revealed that Taylor had internal injuries consistent with a motor vehicle accident, including fractured ribs, a lacerated liver, and a lacerated lung.

         Plaintiff is the administrator of Taylor's estate. He asserted several medical malpractice claims against Defendant AEMS. Among other things, he claims that AEMS failed to perform an adequate medical assessment, failed to inform Taylor of the risks of refusing transport to the hospital, and failed to diagnose and properly assess that Taylor had suffered traumatic injuries after being ejected from his vehicle. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [112], which the Court now considers.

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 56 provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Alexandra H. v. Oxford Health Ins. Inc., 833 F.3d 1299, 1306 (11th Cir. 2016). “A genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor.” Fla. Int'l Univ. Bd. of Trs. v. Fla. Nat'l Univ., Inc., 830 F.3d 1242, 1252 (11th Cir. 2016). “In deciding whether a material disputed fact precludes summary judgment, a court generally must view all evidence and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing summary judgment.” Id. But “conclusory allegations without specific supporting facts have no probative value. One who resists summary judgment must meet the movant's [evidence] with opposing [evidence] setting forth specific facts to show why there is an issue for trial.” Leigh v. Warner Bros., 212 F.3d 1210, 1217 (11th Cir. 2000).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff asserted claims of medical malpractice against Defendant AEMS. Under Alabama law, “any action for injury or damages or wrongful death . . . against a health care provider for breach of the standard of care” is governed by the Alabama Medical Liability Act (“AMLA”). Ala. Code § 6-5-548(a); see also M. C. v. Tallassee Rehab., P.C., 201 So.3d 525, 533 (Ala. 2015). In such cases, the “plaintiff shall have the burden of proving by substantial evidence that the health care provider failed to exercise such reasonable care, skill, and diligence as other similarly situated health care providers in the same general line of practice ordinarily have and exercise in a like case.” Ala Code § 6-5-548(a). Defendant raised several arguments in favor of summary judgment. The Court shall address each in turn.

         A. Admissibility of Expert Testimony

         First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has no admissible expert testimony to support his claims. To maintain a medical-malpractice action, the plaintiff ordinarily must present expert testimony from a ‘similarly situated health-care provider' as to (1) ‘the appropriate standard of care, ' (2) a ‘deviation from that standard [of care], ' and (3) ‘a proximate causal connection between the [defendant's] act or omission constituting the breach and the injury sustained by the plaintiff.'” Lyons v. Walker Regional Med. Ctr., 791 So.2d 937, 942 (Ala. 2000) (alterations original) (quoting Pruitt v. Zeiger, 590 So.2d 236, 238 (Ala. 1991)); see also Jackson v. Pleasant Grove Health Ctr., 980 F.2d 692, 695 (11th Cir. 1993). Defendant argues that Plaintiff's experts - Dr. Richard Sobel and Peter Gonzalez - should be barred from providing expert testimony at trial for the reasons provided in its Motions to Exclude [114, 115] their testimony.

         The Court already addressed Defendant's Motions to Exclude [114, 115]. See Memorandum Opinion and Order at 5-6, Taylor v. Hughes, No. 2:14-CV-1163-KS-WC (M.D. Ala. Aug. 18, 2017), ECF No. 170. First, the Court denied Defendant's Motion to Exclude [114] Sobel's testimony, finding that his experience in the area of emergency medicine rendered him a “similarly situated health care provider.” Id. Next, the Court deferred ruling on Defendant's Motion to Exclude [115] Gonzalez's testimony until trial because it had insufficient information. Id. at 6. Therefore, having already addressed ...

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