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Emory Healthcare, Inc. v. Pardue

Court of Appeals of Georgia

July 15, 2014

EMORY HEALTHCARE, INC.
v.
PARDUE

Reconsideration denied July 31, 2014 -- Cert. applied for.

Page 675

Negligence. DeKalb State Court. Before Judge Gordon.

Bendin Sumrall & Ladner, B. David Ladner, Robert W. Stannard, for appellant.

Laura M. Shamp, for appellee.

RAY, Judge. McFadden, J., concurs and Andrews, P. J. concurs in judgment only.

OPINION

Page 676

Ray, Judge.

Vivian Pardue (" Plaintiff" ), by and through her daughter Chris Vance as next friend, filed a complaint for premises liability and ordinary negligence against Emory Healthcare, Inc.[1] (" Defendant" ) for injuries sustained when she slipped and fell on urine on the floor of her room. After the trial court granted the Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the premises liability claim, but denied its motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's ordinary negligence claim, the case proceeded to a jury trial. Defendant appeals from the jury's verdict in favor of the Plaintiff. On appeal, Defendant argues [328 Ga.App. 665] that the trial court erred by denying its motion for summary judgment and its motion for a directed verdict on the grounds that Plaintiff's claims sound in medical malpractice, not ordinary negligence. Defendant additionally argues that the trial court erred in failing to take judicial notice of adjudicated facts and in allowing inadmissible evidence. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

The record reveals that, in April 2007, the 72-year-old Plaintiff was admitted to Wesley Woods' inpatient psychiatric unit to adjust her medications while in an inpatient setting. At the time of her admission, she was documented to have a history of dementia. Upon her admission to the facility, a history was taken, a fall-risk assessment was completed, and various evaluations were performed by Defendant's employees, including nurse Pat Terry. These admission documents noted that Plaintiff had delirium, that her insight and judgment were poor, and that her cognition was impaired. In the " Fall Risk Assessment" and admission history, nurses noted that Plaintiff had several sensory and cognitive impairments, including cataracts, hearing loss, weakness, an unsteady gait and a history of dementia. Terry testified that Plaintiff was deemed to be a fall risk, and that the fall risk precautions provided that the patient be assisted getting out of bed. Terry testified that she was aware of Plaintiff's conditions as noted in the records.

In the early morning hours of April 19, 2007, Plaintiff attempted to climb over the raised bed rails to go to the bathroom. Plaintiff's actions triggered a bed alarm in the nursing station. Terry and nursing assistant Daphne Bridges responded to the alarm and went to Plaintiff's room. When they got to the room, they assisted Plaintiff with her slippers and, with one on each side of her, assisted her in walking to the bathroom. As they were walking to the bathroom, Plaintiff urinated on the floor. They then led Plaintiff to the bathroom, sat her on the toilet and told her to stay there while they cleaned the floor. Terry and Bridges then left the bathroom and went into the patient's room to wipe urine off the floor with bath towels. Nurse Margaret Richards also entered the room and helped clean the floor. At some point, Bridges and Richards left the room to fetch more towels, leaving Terry alone in the room.

Terry testified that she was bent over, with her back to Plaintiff, cleaning up the urine outside the door of the bathroom when Plaintiff got up, walked across the wet bathroom floor into her room and fell. Terry testified that she did not see Plaintiff get up off the toilet, that she did not see her walk through the bathroom, and that she did not see her fall. After her fall, Plaintiff was transported by ambulance to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with an ankle fracture.

[328 Ga.App. 666] Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant alleging claims of premises liability and ordinary negligence. Defendant moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's negligence claim, arguing that her claims sounded only in professional and not ordinary negligence. Its motion was denied.[2] The trial court then held a

Page 677

bench trial and determined that, although the statute of limitation for a negligence claim had elapsed, Plaintiff was not competent at the time of her injury and, thus, that the statute of limitation as to her negligence claim was tolled pursuant to OCGA ยง 9-3-90. The case then proceeded to a jury trial on the ...


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