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Chamis v. Ashland Hospital Corp.

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

October 13, 2017



          Gordon J. Dill Jr. BRIEF FOR APPELLANT

          Kenneth Williams, Jr. Ashland, Kentucky David F. Latherow, Catherine C. Hughes, Ashland, Kentucky BRIEF FOR APPELLEE:



          NICKELL, JUDGE:

          Kathleen Chamis brings this appeal as Executrix of her late husband's Estate. She claims the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment to the hospital she believes negligently allowed him to fall from a bed on which she says all rails were not up as required by the care plan. In granting summary judgment to Ashland Hospital Corporation, d/b/a King's Daughters Medical Center (KDMC), the Boyd Circuit Court found the hospital was entitled to judgment as a matter of law and there were no genuine issues of fact. The issue on appeal is whether the res ipsa loquitor doctrine applied-eliminating the need for an expert witness-or whether expert testimony was needed to establish the hospital's expected standard of care, breach thereof and resulting injury. Upon review of the briefs, the record and the law, we affirm.


         In 2004, Chris Chamis suffered a brain aneurysm leaving him paralyzed on his right side. He had other maladies including congestive heart failure, kidney disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, COPD and anemia. His wife, Kathleen, cared for him at home until 2009 when he was moved to Kingsbrook Lifecare Center where he resided until his death on February 17, 2014.

         Between 2009 and 2012, Chris was hospitalized at KDMC several times. On December 12, 2012, at age 78, he was admitted for extreme weakness and fatigue. The hospital deemed him to be at high risk for falling and placed a red band on his arm to alert staff to his status. As a further precaution, his care plan required all four bed rails to be in the up position and he was to ambulate only with the assistance of two persons.

         On December 14, 2012, as was her usual routine, Kathleen left the hospital after Chris's evening meal around 7:00 p.m. Between her departure and 2:00 a.m. on December 15, 2012, Chris fell from his hospital bed, causing a wound to his forehead and an abrasion to his knee. Nurse Jennifer Murphy discovered him on the floor beside the bed with a bleeding head wound. According to Murphy's progress notes, Chris was alert and oriented to person, place and time.

         Murphy notified the charge nurse, Kelly Latimer, who immediately went to Chris's room where she saw him on the floor. Chris talked with Murphy and Latimer and answered questions as he was helped back into bed. According to Latimer's deposition, all four bed rails were in the up position when she entered Chris's room. When asked if she knew how he had gotten to the floor Latimer stated, "Don't know. Never seen him get up out of bed before." Kathleen learned of Chris's fall in a telephone call around 2:30 a.m. Kathleen spoke briefly to Chris on the telephone; he said he guessed he was okay.

         Dr. Martin Kassan, a plastic surgeon, sutured the wound on Chris's forehead; Dr. James Rice examined the abrasion on his knee. A CT scan revealed no intercranial bleeding or other abnormality. On December 18, Chris was discharged to Kingsbrook in good condition. In the next fourteen months, he was admitted to KDMC at least two more times.

         On June 20, 2013, Chris filed a complaint against KDMC alleging negligence and failing to provide the minimum standard of professional care during his stay in December 2012 when he, assessed by the hospital to be a patient with a high risk of falling, fell and sustained permanent and debilitating injuries. After Chris's death, the case was revived with Kathleen as plaintiff in her capacity as Executrix of her late husband's Estate.

         In its CR[1] 26 disclosure, the Estate named three expert witnesses-Dr. Kassan; Dr. Robert Klein, a cardiologist who treated Chris both before and after the fall; and three Kingsbrook employees who "treated the Plaintiff's decedent before the accident and will testify that the Plaintiff's decedent prior to the accident was incapable of climbing over the bed ...

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