Davis v. Harriman City Hospital

Full title: REBA V. DAVIS and TYLER WAYNE DAVIS by next friend, REBA V. DAVIS…

Court: Court of Appeals of Tennessee

C.A. No. 03A01-9701-CV-00016.

Date published: Jul 2, 1997


Reba V. Davis brought a medical malpractice suit, individually and on behalf of her infant son, Tyler, against Dr. Elbert Cunningham, Harriman City Hospital, and the City of Harriman for injuries sustained by Tyler shortly after birth. After settling with Dr. Cunningham, Ms. Davis amended her complaint to include allegations of negligence against the nurses at Harriman City Hospital.


The issue presented is whether material evidence exists in the record sufficient to overturn the trial court’s granting of summary judgment as to the five nurses and their employer, Harriman City Hospital, concerning their alleged negligence and its role as a proximate cause of Tyler’s injuries.


The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the five nurses and Harriman City Hospital, finding that the plaintiff failed to present evidence, contrary to that offered by the defendants, proving that the alleged negligence of the nurses proximately caused Tyler’s injuries. The plaintiff appealed, challenging the propriety of the summary judgment.

The appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. The court reviewed the standards governing summary judgment and emphasized that summary judgment is only appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material facts relevant to the claim, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court noted that the material facts were undisputed in this case.

The court considered the affidavit of Nurse Christine Busch, which created a genuine issue of material fact on the question of the defendants’ alleged negligence. However, the plaintiff stipulated that Nurse Busch was not qualified to give expert testimony on medical causation and was not offered as a causation witness. Instead, the plaintiff presented the deposition testimony of Dr. Joseph B. Philips, III, regarding causation.

Dr. Philips opined that the causation of Tyler’s injury was the failure to more aggressively intervene to diagnose and treat him, and that Dr. Cunningham was responsible for diagnosing and instituting appropriate treatment, including administering oxygen. The trial court found that any breach of the standard of care by the nurse defendants was not the cause of Tyler’s injury, as Dr. Cunningham, who was kept fully aware of Tyler’s condition by the nurses, was responsible for diagnosing and treating him.

Based on Tennessee law, the plaintiff had the burden of proving that the defendants’ negligence was the proximate cause of Tyler’s injuries. The evidence presented by the plaintiff, including Dr. Philips’ testimony, was insufficient to establish causation against the nurses and their employer under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Therefore, the trial court’s granting of summary judgment was upheld.

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