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Grubb v. Norton Hospitals, Inc.

Supreme Court of Kentucky

May 23, 2013

LINDA S. GRUBB AND LAYMON GRUBB, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS CO-ADMINISTRATORS OF THE ESTATE OF KRYSTAL DENISE MEREDITH; AND LINDA S. GRUBB AND LAYMON GRUBB, AS GRANDPARENTS AND NEXT FRIENDS OF ALYSSA B. MEREDITH, A MINOR APPELLANTS
v.
NORTON HOSPITALS, INC.; LUIS M. VELASCO, M.D.; AND JAMES B. HAILE, M.D. APPELLEES

ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NOS. 2009-CA-000021-MR; 2009-CA-000060-MR; 2009-CA-000098-MR; AND 2009-CA-000099 JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT NO. 07-CI-003983

COUNSEL FOR APPELLANTS: Francis Thomas Conway Chadwick Neal Gardner Scott Thomas Roby

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, NORTON HOSPITALS, INC: Bradley R. Hume Heather Renee Cash Beth Hendrickson McMasters Allison Olczak Wildman

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, LUIS M. VELASCO, M.D.: Craig Louis Johnson Brandon M. Howell

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, JAMES B. HAILE, M.D.: Daniel Garland Brown David Bryan Gazak Robert Joseph Shilts

OPINION

CUNNINGHAM, JUSTICE

This medical malpractice claim was brought by Linda and Laymon Grubb, the parents of Krystal Meredith, individually and as next friends of Krystal's daughter, Alyssa (collectively, "the Grubbs"). Krystal was twenty-years old and thirty-seven-weeks pregnant when she began to experience abdominal pain on January 5, 2007. She was taken to Norton Hospital and was treated by Dr. James Haile. Dr. Haile was covering for Krystal's regular obstetrician, Dr. Luis Velasco.

Between January 5 and January 7, Krystal visited the Norton Hospital emergency room three times, each time complaining of severe abdominal pain. The parties dispute exactly what occurred during these visits. Nonetheless, it is undisputed that Krystal was sent home following the first two visits, but was admitted to the hospital on the evening of January 7.

Dr. Haile ordered blood work on January 7, which revealed an ongoing infection. The following morning, Dr. Velasco resumed care of Krystal. Labor was induced and Krystal delivered a healthy daughter, Alyssa Brook. Following delivery, Krystal became very weak and continued to experience severe abdominal pain. Exploratory surgery on January 8 revealed a ruptured appendix and abscess. Despite this surgical intervention, Krystal developed acute respiratory distress syndrome. Tragically, as a result of this complication, she passed away on February 1.

The Grubbs filed suit against Dr. Velasco, Dr. Haile, and Norton Hospitals, Inc. for wrongful death and loss of parental consortium. A Jefferson County jury found in favor of the defendants and the Grubbs appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment and this Court granted discretionary review. For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the decision of the Court of . Appeals.

Voir Dire

The Grubbs first allege that the trial court erred in failing to strike three jurors for cause. Generally speaking, the trial court enjoys "broad discretion" in deciding whether a juror should be stricken for cause. Gould v. Charlton Co. Inc., 929 S.W.2d 734, 737 (Ky. 1996). "The central inquiry is whether a prospective juror can conform his or her views to the requirements of the law, and render a fair and impartial verdict based solely on the evidence[.]" Wood v. Commonwealth, 178 S.W.3d 500, 516 (Ky. 2005). We will reverse only upon a showing that the trial court abused its discretion. Rankin v. Commonwealth, 327 S.W.3d 492, 498 (Ky. 2010).

Juror Pacanowski

During general voir dire, the trial court asked whether any member of the panel had a relationship with any of the parties. Mr. Pacanowski responded that he "[has] a son that's a manager at Norton." When further questioned by plaintiffs' counsel about this disclosure, he elaborated: "My son is a purchasing manager over there for about ten years and if it was a close call, like [inaudible] said, I'd probably have problems with it." No follow-up questions were posed by counsel. Later, when the entire panel was asked whether they could remain fair and impartial, Mr. Pacanowski did not indicate ...


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