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Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, LLC v. Adams

Supreme Court of Kentucky

November 2, 2017

LAKE CUMBERLAND REGIONAL HOSPITAL, LLC APPELLANT
v.
HELEN ADAMS APPELLEE AND SPRING VIEW HOSPITAL, LLC APPELLANT
v.
KAREN JONES (NOW EPLEY) APPELLEE AND SPRING VIEW HOSPITAL, LLC APPELLANT
v.
JOYCE SPALDING (EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH PAUL SPALDING, DECEASED) AND JOYCE SPALDING APPELLEESANDJOYCE SPALDING (EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH PAUL SPALDING, DECEASED) AND JOYCE SPALDING APPELLANTS
v.
SPRING VIEW HOSPITAL, LLC APPELLEE

         ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2013-CA-000983 PULASKI CIRCUIT COURT NO. 09-CI-01471

         ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NOS. 2014-CA-000600 & 2014-CA-000707 MARION CIRCUIT COURT NO. 10-CI-00208

         ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NOS. 2013-CA-000842 & 2013-CA-000912 MARION CIRCUIT COURT NO. 10-CI-00011

         ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NOS. 2013-CA-000842 & 2013-CA-000912 MARION CIRCUIT COURT NO. 10-CI-00011

          FOR LAKE CUMBERLAND REGIONAL HOSPITAL, LLC AND SPRING VIEW HOSPITAL, LLC: Brian Todd Thompson Millicent Ann Tanner Eleanor M.B. Davis Chad Owens Propst Joseph Wright Thompson Miller & Simpson PLC

          FOR APPELLEES/APPELLANTS: JOYCE SPALDING AND JOSEPH SPALDING (JOYCE SPALDING AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH PAUL SPALDING): Joseph Hubert Mattingly III Kaelin Goheen Reed John Elder, IV Mattingly & Nally-Martin, PLLC

          FOR APPELLEE, KAREN JONES (NOW EPLEY): Joseph Hubert Mattingly III Kaelin Goheen Reed John Elder, IV - Mattingly & Nally-Martin, PLLC Kandice D. Engle-Gray

          FOR APPELLEE, HELEN ADAMS: Stephen M. O'Brien, III David Coomer Adam J. Stigall Stephen M. O'Brien, III, PLLC

          FOR AMICUS CURIAE, KENTUCKY HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION: Wesley Reed Butler Benjamin M. Fiechter Kimberly Goetz DeSimone, Barnett Benvenuti & Butler PLLC

          FOR AMICUS CURIAE, KENTUCKY JUSTICE ASSOCIATION: Paul A. Casi, II Jeffrey Wayne Adamson Paul Casi, III Paul A. Casi, II, P.S.C. Kevin Crosby Burke Burke Neal PLLC

          FOR AMICUS CURIAE, KENTUCKY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Sarah Spurlock Charles J. Cronan IV Bethany A. Breetz Stites & Harbison PLLC

          OPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE KELLER AFFIRMING IN PART. REVERSING IN PART, AND REMANDING

         This Court granted discretionary review to consider the issue of whether patients have a cause of action against a hospital for the negligent credentialing of a non-employee physician who is given staff privileges by the hospital. We consolidate these cases to determine whether Kentucky law recognizes the tort of negligent credentialing. For the following reasons, we reverse the Court of Appeals' recognition of negligent credentialing as a separate cause of action in the Commonwealth. We affirm the Court of Appeals' affirmance of summary judgment in the Spalding case and reinstate the order of the trial court. We remand the Adams and Jones cases to the respective trial courts for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND.

         A. The Adams Case.

         Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital (LCRH) is located in Somerset, Kentucky. In 2006, LCRH granted provisional medical staff privileges to Dr. Guy Sava. Prior to LCRH granting privileges to Dr. Sava in 2006, Dr. Sava practiced in Ohio, Saudi Arabia, and Minnesota, specializing in neurosurgery.

         LCRH reviewed Dr. Sava's application for privileges which contained information relating to his prior history of chemical dependence and depression. The record shows Dr. Sava sought treatment in 2002, and no instances of substance abuse have occurred since his treatment. LCRH obtained peer recommendations related to Dr. Sava. Some physicians voiced reservations over Dr. Sava's professional judgment and patient management. LCRH granted Dr. Sava full active staff privileges in May 2007.

         Helen Adams (Adams) sought treatment from Dr. Sava in September 2008 due to suffering from severe back and leg pain. Adams was diagnosed with multiple spinal conditions, and Dr. Sava performed a spinal stabilization procedure on October 6, 2008. Dr. Sava was to insert hardware along both sides of Adams's spine; however, complications arose during surgery, and because Adams suffered from osteoporosis, the hardware could only be placed on one side of her spine. Adams also suffered from a torn dura, the layer covering the spinal cord.

         Adams continued to report severe pain following surgery and fluid collected under the skin on her back. Dr. Sava performed a second procedure to repair a cerebrospinal fluid leak. Adams continued to complain of severe pain in her right leg, right foot numbness, and right foot drop.

         Adams filed suit on October 5, 2009, alleging negligence against Dr. Sava, Dr. Sava's neurosurgery clinic, and LCRH. Adams asserted that due to Dr. Sava's history and the reservations from his former peers, LCRH was negligent "in extending privileges to [Dr. Sava], or in failing to suspend or terminate Dr. Sava's privileges prior to the injuries caused to [Adams]."

         By agreed order, Adams dismissed her claims of negligence against LCRH based on treatment rendered by LCRH and based on theories of ostensible agency. LCRH moved the Pulaski Circuit Court for judgment on the pleadings on the only remaining claim, negligent credentialing. The trial court granted the motion finding that there is no recognized cause of action for negligent credentialing in Kentucky. Adams appealed.

          B. The Jones (now Epley) Case.

         Spring View Hospital (Spring View) is located in Lebanon, Kentucky. Spring View is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals requiring Spring View to draft and enforce bylaws outlining their credentialing process. Spring View's bylaws required that members of its active medical staff:

Must be Board certified in the specialty for which they seek privileges, or have successfully completed a residency training program. . . in the specialty for which they are applying for privileges; or be board certified or board admissible by one of [several] specialty boards in the specialty for which the practitioner. is applying for privileges. Members of the active staff must obtain Board Certification by a specialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties within five (5) years of becoming eligible to sit for Board exams. This requirement will be considered at time of initial appointment and at each subsequent reappointment.

         Dr. Daniel Bailey signed a Recruiting Agreement with Spring View in September 2006. The Recruiting Agreement required Dr. Bailey to be duly licensed as a physician in the State of Kentucky, and to obtain and maintain active medical staff privileges with Spring View. Dr. Bailey applied to join Spring View's medical staff in December 2006. In his application, Dr. Bailey disclosed his experience in orthopedic surgery in Texas and indicated he specialized in "orthopedics." However, Dr. Bailey left blank the section of the application requesting the names of specialty boards in which the physician was certified.

         After the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure granted Dr. Bailey his license to practice in Kentucky, Spring View granted Dr. Bailey provisional medical staff privileges for one year. Dr. Bailey was granted active medical staff privileges in July 2008.

         Karen Jones (Jones) injured her knee in 2005 and saw Dr. Bailey in August 2007. Dr. Bailey performed a right patellofemoral knee replacement surgery and a subsequent total right knee arthroplasty. After surgery, Jones experienced complications and began seeing another doctor, Dr. Sewell, in August 2009, when she became aware that Dr. Bailey's treatment may have caused her injury.

         Jones filed suit for medical malpractice against Dr. Bailey on May 28, 2010, and in November 2012, amended her complaint to add Spring View, alleging that Spring View was negligent in granting Dr. Bailey staff credentials. Spring View moved for Summary Judgment based on Jones's claims being time barred. Spring View asserted that Jones knew, or should have known, of her claim against Spring View more than a year before Jones filed her Amended Complaint. The trial court denied the motion.

         In January 2014, Spring View filed a motion to dismiss Jones's claim because Kentucky did not recognize the tort of negligent credentialing. The Marion Circuit Court agreed and granted Spring View's motion. Jones appealed. After Jones' negligent credentialing claim was dismissed, and notice of appeal was filed, Jones settled her claim with Dr. Bailey.

         C. The Spalding Case.

         Joseph Spalding fractured his hip in January 2009, requiring surgery, which Dr. Bailey performed at Spring View. Following surgery, Dr. Bailey recommended that Mr. Spalding undergo a total replacement of his knee joint. This surgery occurred on April 22, 2009. Complications developed including failure of the knee prosthesis, severe infection, and necrosis. Additional surgeries were required and ultimately Mr. Spalding's leg had to be amputated above the knee.

         The Spaldings filed suit against Dr. Bailey and Spring View in January 2010. .The Spaldings claimed Spring View was negligent in granting Dr. Bailey active medical staff privileges due to his lack of qualification under the hospital's own bylaws and in failing to revoke Dr. Bailey's privileges in light of alleged prior negligent actions.

         Dr. Bailey filed for bankruptcy and the Spaldings settled their claim with him, leaving their action for negligent credentialing against Spring View as the only remaining claim. Spring View moved for Summary Judgment and Judgment on the Pleadings based on the Spaldings' failure to assert a recognized cause of action under Kentucky law. The trial court granted Spring View's motions. The trial court also found that even if negligent credentialing was recognized, the Spaldings did not provide sufficient expert proof to present to the jury. The Spaldings appealed.

          D. Court of Appeals Decision.

         The Court of Appeals consolidated the above cases for review. The Court of Appeals examined the law of other jurisdictions recognizing the tort of negligent credentialing and considered the respective policy arguments for, and against, such recognition. The Court ultimately recognized negligent credentialing as a cause of action by which individuals can hold hospitals liable for the negligent extension or renewal of staff privileges and credentials to independent contractor physicians. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the Adams case; reversed and remanded the Jones case, affirming the trial court's denial of Spring View's motion for summary judgment regarding its statute of limitations claims; and affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Spring ...


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