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Youngblood v. Martin

Supreme Court of Alabama

January 10, 2020

Beekman Youngblood, M.D.
v.
Anthony Martin, as personal representative of the Estate of Lanesha Martin, deceased

          Appeal from Dallas Circuit Court (CV-08-900086)

          STEWART, JUSTICE.

         Beekman Youngblood, M.D. ("Dr. Youngblood"), a board-certified anesthesiologist, appeals from a judgment of the Dallas Circuit Court ("the trial court") entered on a jury verdict in favor of Anthony Martin, as personal representative of the estate of Lanesha Martin, deceased. Because we hold that the trial court should have entered a judgment as a matter of law ("JML") in favor of Dr. Youngblood, we reverse the judgment and remand the cause for the entry of a JML in favor of Dr. Youngblood.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On May 25, 2006, Lanesha Martin underwent outpatient sinus surgery at Vaughan Regional Medical Center ("the medical center"). During the surgery, Mrs. Martin was administered general anesthesia and was intubated (i.e., an endotracheal tube was inserted into her throat to help her breathe). After the surgery, Mrs. Martin developed pulmonary edema while in the post-anesthesia care unit ("the PACU") and began experiencing problems with her oxygen saturation. Mrs. Martin was subsequently reintubated and transferred to the intensive-care unit of the medical center for further treatment, but she died on May 29, 2006.

         On May 28, 2008, Mr. Martin, as the personal representative of Mrs. Martin's estate, commenced a wrongful-death action against Dr. Youngblood and Vaughan Regional Medical Center, Inc. ("VRMC"), the owner and operator of the medical center, which eventually settled before trial, under § 6-5-410, Ala. Code 1975. In his complaint, Mr. Martin alleged that Dr. Youngblood had failed to meet the applicable standard of care in administering anesthesia and in caring for and treating Mrs. Martin after the surgery. A jury trial began on February 6, 2018.

         Dr. Dennis Doblar provided expert testimony on behalf of Mr. Martin, specifically opining that Dr. Youngblood had breached the applicable standard of care in treating Mrs. Martin. Dr. Doblar testified that he had been board certified in anesthesiology since 1983. Dr. Doblar also testified that he had previously been employed with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital for approximately 20 years, where he had trained anesthesia residents. Dr. Doblar's testimony indicated that he had had 11 jobs over the past 8.5 years and that, at the time of the trial, he was practicing anesthesiology, including administering intravenous sedation and nerve blocks, at a pain-management clinic in Centre.

         On February 13, 2018, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Martin and against Dr. Youngblood; after setting off the amount of the settlement received from VRMC, the jury's verdict against Dr. Youngblood was in the amount of $305, 000. On February 26, 2018, the trial court entered a judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict. On March 23, 2018, Dr. Youngblood filed a renewed motion for a JML or, in the alternative, for a new trial.[1] That motion was denied by operation of law on June 21, 2018. See Rule 59.1, Ala. R. Civ. P. On July 24, 2018, Dr. Youngblood timely filed a notice of appeal to this Court.

         Discussion

         Dr. Youngblood argues that he is entitled to a JML or, alternatively, to a new trial.

"When reviewing a ruling on a motion for a JML, this Court uses the same standard the trial court used initially in deciding whether to grant or deny the motion for a JML. Palm Harbor Homes, Inc. v. Crawford, 689 So.2d 3 (Ala. 1997). Regarding questions of fact, the ultimate question is whether the nonmovant has presented sufficient evidence to allow the case to be submitted to the jury for a factual resolution. Carter v. Henderson, 598 So.2d 1350 (Ala. 1992). The nonmovant must have presented substantial evidence in order to withstand a motion for a JML. See § 12-21-12, Ala. Code 1975; West v. Founders Life Assurance Co. of Florida, 547 So.2d 870, 871 (Ala. 1989). A reviewing court must determine whether the party who bears the burden of proof has produced substantial evidence creating a factual dispute requiring resolution by the jury. Carter, 598 So.2d at 1353. In reviewing a ruling on a motion for a JML, this Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and entertains such reasonable inferences as the jury would have been free to draw. Id. Regarding a question of law, however, this Court indulges no presumption of correctness as to the trial court's ruling. Ricwil, Inc. v. S.L. Pappas & Co., 599 So.2d 1126 (Ala. 1992)."

Waddell & Reed, Inc. v. United Inv'rs Life Ins. Co., 875 So.2d 1143, 1152 (Ala. 2003).

         Dr. Youngblood argues that his motion for a JML was due to be granted because, he says, Dr. Doblar did not meet the requirements of a "similarly situated health care provider," as that term is defined in § 6-5-548(c), Ala. Code 1975, which is part of the Alabama Medical Liability Act of 1987, § 6-5-540 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ("the 1987 AMLA");[2] therefore, Dr. ...


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