Court reinstates malpractice claim where summary dismissal of hospital-principal results from "lack of basic due process" and bad faith by insurance attorney
The Personal Representative of Melody Grimmer sued several doctors and their corporations, including one hospital, after Ms. Grimmer died immediately after a cardiac catheterization. The family argued that the doctor who diagnosed her ultimately-fatal hematoma and the doctors who refused to respond to the diagnosis were all negligent. The family couldn't get service on the diagnosing doctor, however, and apparently concluded that the subsequent treaters should be dismissed. When those treaters sought summary disposition, the family's attorney indicated that she would not object to their dismissal or attend the hearing seeking dismissal.
At the hearing, the attorneys--who had not sought dismissal of the un-served, diagnosing doctor's employer-- verbally asked the Court to also dismiss that defendant with prejudice. The Court agreed to do so, even though no one had moved for a summary dismissal of the allegedly negligent doctor's employer, and no one had alerted the family's attorney that such a dismissal would be sought.
The family appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the trial judge had abused its discretion. The Court noted that a claim could be pursued against the hospital "principal" even without suing the agent-physician, so the failure to achieve service of process on the doctor-agent was irrelevant. The panel noted that dismissing the claim where no motion had been filed was both a denial of "basic due process" (not to mention the pertinent Court Rule) and a violation of good faith by the defense attorneys who requested it at the hearing.
The case was reinstated.