RODNEY HERRETT and JOYCE HERRETT, as husband and wife, Plaintiffs-Respondents,
ST. LUKE'S MAGIC VALLEY REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, LTD., dba ST. LUKE'S MAGIC VALLEY, Defendant-Appellant, and BUSINESS ENTITIES I through X, and JOHN DOE and JANE DOE, husband and wife, I through X, Defendants.
from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the
State of Idaho, Twin Falls County. Hon. Randy J. Stoker,
judgment of the district court is affirmed.
Gjording Fouser, PLLC, Boise, for appellant. Bobbi Dominick
Pedersen and Whitehead, Twin Falls, for respondents. Jarom A.
Luke's Magic Valley Regional Medical Center (St.
Luke's) appeals a jury verdict awarding Rodney and Joyce
Herrett $3, 775, 864.21 in a medical malpractice action
wherein St. Luke's admitted liability. In this appeal,
St. Luke's asserts that the district court erred by
denying its motion for mistrial, admitting certain expert
testimony, and improperly instructing the jury as to
recklessness. We affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Herrett has suffered from various medical conditions
throughout her life and she was hospitalized at St.
Luke's in December of 2013 for a septic infection. On
December 24, 2013, Herrett was about to be discharged. Just
as Herrett was about to leave her room, she asked about the
removal of a central venous catheter (CVC) that had been
placed in her neck to allow the direct introduction of
medication and fluids into her blood stream. Marilou Wentz,
the nurse caring for Herrett, testified that she sought
guidance from her supervisor, Sheila Dutt, because she had
not removed a CVC before and that Dutt told her to just pull
it out slowly. Dutt denied that Wentz had sought such
instruction. Wentz removed the CVC while Herrett was seated
upright in a wheelchair.
Wentz was removing the CVC, Herrett began to complain of
difficulty in breathing. Herrett was placed on the hospital
bed and Wentz went for help. A rapid response team was called
and Herrett was transferred to the intensive care unit.
Herrett had suffered a stroke resulting from an air embolism
introduced during the removal of the CVC. After being treated
for the stroke, Herrett was readmitted to the rehabilitation
unit with Dr. Kim Wiggins as her treating physician.
course of treatment, Herrett was released to go home but
continued to see Dr. Wiggins. After initially doing well,
Herrett was readmitted to the hospital in September of 2014
for failure to thrive. Following the stroke, Herrett has had
trouble caring for herself and increased anxiety.
Herretts filed this suit on February 9, 2015. St. Luke's
admitted that Wentz, its employee, breached the standard of
care when removing the CVC. The case proceeded to trial to
determine whether Wentz's conduct was reckless and the
amount of damages. The jury trial lasted nine days.
trial, the Herretts called Dr. Wiggins to testify about her
treatment of Ms. Herrett before and after the stroke. Dr.
Wiggins testified that the 2014 hospitalization resulted from
the stroke. During cross-examination, St. Luke's
questioned Dr. Wiggins about other pre-existing conditions
that may have necessitated the September 2014
hospitalization. St. Luke's introduced some of
Herrett's medical records (exhibits K and L) into
evidence during this cross-examination. On redirect, Dr.
Wiggins was asked about encephalomalacia, a term appearing in
the records admitted at St. Luke's request. St.
Luke's objected, arguing that any opinion regarding
encephalomalacia was outside the scope of Dr. Wiggins'
expert witness disclosure. The district court overruled the
the end of their case-in-chief, the Herretts called Debra
DeMint-Lee as a witness. Ms. DeMint-Lee is a life-care
planner who testified about the cost of Herrett's future
in-home medical care. St. Luke's argues that the district
court erred by overruling its objection to DeMint-Lee's
testimony for lack of foundation for making this kind of
Carl Goldstein was the Herretts' only rebuttal witness.
Dr. Goldstein was called to rebut the testimony presented by
Dr. Stuart Shankland on behalf of St. Luke's. The
Herretts' pretrial witness disclosure stated that
"Dr. Goldstein will opine that Dr. Shankland's
assessment of the effect of proteinuria and chronic kidney
disease on Joyce Herrett's life expectancy is excessive,
unreasonable and based on outdated information. Dr. Goldstein
will reference materials provided by Dr. Shankland to
establish this foundational flaw." St. Luke's
contends that the trial court erred by permitting Dr.
Goldstein to testify when the pretrial disclosure did not
identify which of Dr. Shankland's articles Dr. Goldstein
was going to criticize or explain how he intended to utilize
Dr. Shankland's articles.
Luke's objected to the Herrett's proposed instruction
defining the term "reckless," arguing that the
district court should give the instruction found in Idaho
Jury Instruction 2.25. The district court gave the
instruction proposed by the Herretts, stating that the
instruction properly stated the law.
jury found the Herretts were entitled to $3, 850, 004.83 in
damages. This figure was subsequently reduced by stipulation
to reflect contractual adjustments of medical expenses and an
amended judgment was entered for $3, 775, 864.21. St.
Luke's appeals, arguing that the district court erred in
allowing Dr. Wiggins' testimony because it was outside
the scope of the expert witness disclosure. St. Luke's
also argues that Dr. Goldstein's testimony was not
properly disclosed as required by rule, the district
court's jury instruction improperly defined recklessness,
and Ms. DeMint-Lee's testimony was not supported by
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing the trial court's evidentiary rulings, this
Court applies an abuse of discretion standard."
Edmunds v. Kraner, 142 Idaho 867, 871, 136 P.3d 338,
342 (2006). "The Court reviews a trial court's
decision admitting or excluding evidence, including the
testimony of expert witnesses, under the abuse of discretion
standard." White v. Mock, 140 Idaho 882, 888,
104 P.3d 356, 362 (2004). "Whether a witness is
sufficiently qualified as an expert to state an opinion is a
matter which is largely within the discretion of the trial
court." Egbert v. Idaho State Ins. Fund, 125
Idaho 678, 680, 873 P.2d 1332, 1334 (1994) (quoting
Sidwell v. William Prym, Inc., 112 Idaho 76, 81, 730
P.2d 996, 1001 (1986)).
decision whether to declare or deny a mistrial is a matter
within the discretion of the trial judge if the court
determines that an occurrence at trial has prevented a fair
trial." Van Brunt v. Stoddard, 136 Idaho 681,
686, 39 P.3d 621, 626 (2001). "After trial is commenced,
at any time prior to the rendering of a verdict, the court
may declare a mistrial on its own motion or on motion of any
party if it determines an occurrence at trial has prevented a
fair trial." I.R.C.P. 48.
order to determine if the district court abused its
discretion this Court looks to see:
Whether the trial court: (1) correctly perceived the issue as
one of discretion; (2) acted within the outer boundaries of
its discretion; (3) acted consistently with the legal
standards applicable to the specific choices available to ...