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Colston v. Regency Nursing, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

February 6, 2018

JANICE COLSTON, as Executrix of the Estate of Tommie Haugabook, deceased PLAINTIFF
v.
REGENCY NURSING, LLC DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on: (1) Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Statutory & Negligence Per Se Claims (DN 30); (2) Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Wrongful Death Beneficiaries' Grief Claims (DN 31); (3) Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claim for Punitive Damages (DN 32); (4) Defendant's Motion to Exclude Medical Causation Testimony by Nurse Nancy Dion and Certain Arguments by Counsel (DN 33); and (5) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claims for Past Medical Expenses (DN 34). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 34) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED AS MOOT IN PART, and Defendant's other pending motions are DENIED AS MOOT.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On August 6, 2014, Tommie Haugabook (“Haugabook”), now deceased, was admitted to Regency Center-a nursing home facility owned and operated by Defendant Regency Nursing, LLC (“Defendant”). (Compl. ¶ 7, DN 1-2). At that time of her admission Haugabook suffered from a variety of medical issues, including acute respiratory failure, diabetes mellitus, and breast cancer. (Def.'s Expert Witness Disclosure Ex. E, at 2, DN 26-5 [hereinafter Lehman Report]; Garrett Dep. 7:23-25, Jan. 18, 2017, DN 38-4; Richardson Dep. 42:25-43:1, Jan. 18, 2017, DN 38-3). As a result of these illnesses Haugabook was bed-ridden and non-verbal, wore a tracheal tube, and required total assistance from the nurses at Defendant's facility. (Garrett Dep. 7:23-25; Danielle Richardson Dep. 28:11-14, Jan. 18, 2017, DN 38-2).

         Throughout the course of Haugabook's stay at Regency Center, her daughter, Plaintiff Nicole Colston (“Colston”), visited her regularly. (Colston Dep. 33:19-34:6, Nov. 10, 2016, DN 39-5). During those visits Colston perceived that Regency Center nurses were providing Haugabook with substandard care. Specifically, Colston observed that her mother's tracheal tube was often dirty and clogged, causing it to overflow onto Haugabook's chest. (Colston Dep. 39:9-22). In addition, Colston could regularly smell Haugabook's urine and feces as a result of the nursing staff's failure to change Haugabook's diaper. (Colston Dep. 43:1-19). Colston allegedly reported each instance of substandard care to the nurses' station near Haugabook's room, and, in response, the nurses always told her that they were “short staffed” and would “get to it when [they] could . . . .” (Colston Dep. 40:1-9).

         After many months of care at Regency Center and hospitalizations, [1] Haugabook died. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Pl.'s Claim Punitive Damages Ex. A, DN 32-2). Her death certificate lists metastatic breast cancer and chronic respiratory failure as the official cause of her death. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Pl.'s Claim Punitive Damages Ex. A; Delagarza Report 3).

         B. Procedural Background

         Colston, as executrix of Haugabook's estate, filed suit against Defendant raising three causes of action. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-40). The Complaint first alleges that the nurses at Regency Center acted negligently when they: (1) failed to perform a variety of tasks-such as ensuring that Haugabook received adequate skin and “incontinent care”-and (2) violated Kentucky statutes designed to protect elderly and incompetent individuals from abuse.[2] (See Compl. ¶¶ 17(e), 19(a)-(d)). Colston asserts that such failures caused Haugabook to suffer injuries, including: (1) skin breakdown around her chest, (2) infections (presumably in her urinary tract), and (3) dehydration.[3] (Compl. ¶ 13(c)-(g)). Second, the Complaints avers that the nurses violated KRS 216.515(6) when they subjected Haugabook to “mental and physical abuse” throughout her stay at Regency Center.[4] (Compl. ¶ 30(d)). Third, Colston claims that the nurses' “grossly negligent” conduct caused Haugabook's death. (Compl. ¶¶ 34-37). Further, Colston charges that Defendant is liable for the nurses' misconduct and that the allegedly negligent acts were committed with “oppression, fraud, [or] malice, ” which justifies punitive damages. (See Compl. ¶¶ 21-28, 40).

         The parties proceeded with discovery and disclosed their expert witnesses. Defendant submitted two expert reports-one from Vincent W. Delagarza, MD (“Delagarza”), the other from Janine Lehman, RN (“Lehman”). (See Delagarza Report; Lehman Report). Lehman's report explained that the nurses at Regency Center complied “with the applicable standard of care” in caring for Haugabook, and Delagarza opined that none of the nurses' alleged misconduct caused Haugabook's skin breakdown, infections, dehydration, or death. (Lehman Report 1-3; Delagarza Report 5-6; Delagarza Dep. 26:3-21, Aug. 16, 2017, DN 33-3). Plaintiff identified Nancy Dion, RN (“Dion”) as an expert witness, but never submitted any documents detailing Dion's expert opinion. (See Pl.'s Expert Disclosure ¶ 1, DN 22). In fact, the only portion of Dion's deposition submitted to this Court was a one-page excerpt in which Dion testified that she is not qualified to give an opinion on whether the nurses' alleged negligence caused Haugabook's injuries. (Dion Dep. 106:4-12, Aug. 4, 2017, DN 32-4 [hereinafter Dion Dep.]).

         C. Pending Motions

         Once discovery closed, Defendant filed five motions, all of which are pending but only one of which is dispositive of Plaintiff's case, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claims for Past Medical Expenses (DN 34) (“Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment”). In that motion, Defendant argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on each of Plaintiff's claims because Plaintiff submitted no evidence supporting her claim that the nurses' alleged misconduct caused Haugabook's injuries.[5](Def.'s Mem. Supp. Summ. J. 1-6).

         Plaintiff has responded to each pending motion. Importantly, however, Plaintiff does not attach or cite to evidence in any of her responses supporting her contention that Defendant's alleged misconduct caused Haugabook's injuries. (See, e.g., Pl.'s Resp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Pl.'s Claims Past Medical Expenses, DN 35 [hereinafter Pl.'s Resp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J.]). Defendant has filed reply briefs corresponding to each of its motions, largely reiterating the arguments it raised in its merits briefs. (See, e.g., Def.'s Reply Supp. Mot. Summ. J., DN 47). The parties have fully briefed the pending motions and each is ripe for adjudication. As noted, however, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 34) is dispositive of the case and, as such, the Court will only address that motion.

         II. STAND ...


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