Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Day v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

June 10, 2016

MICHELLE DAY, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JAMES AVERY DEWEESE, SR. AND ON BEHALF OF THE WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF JAMES AVERY DEWEESE, SR., RUTH DEWEESE, INDIVIDUALLY, and MICHELLE DAY INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KRISTINE G. BAKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On June 9, 2014, plaintiff Michelle Day filed this action for medical injury against defendant the United States of America. This action was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq., and is prosecuted in substance under the Arkansas Medical Malpractice Act, codified at Ark. Code Ann. § 16-114-201, et seq. Ms. Day alleges that the failure to diagnose hepatocellular carcinoma (“HCC” or “liver cancer”) of James Avery Deweese, Sr., on October 31, 2011, at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas, prematurely caused his death in July 2013 (Dkt. No. 1, ¶¶ 6-9). She states claims under Arkansas’s medical negligence and wrongful death laws (Dkt. No. 1, ¶¶ 35-41, 42-45).

         The Court previously granted in part the government’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed with prejudice Ms. Day’s medical negligence claims under Arkansas law (Dkt. No. 68). In that Order, the Court ordered the parties to file supplemental briefing as to why Ms. Day’s wrongful death claims should not be dismissed. Both parties filed initial briefs (Dkt. Nos. 69, 70) and response briefs (Dkt. Nos. 71, 72). For the reasons set forth below, the Court dismisses with prejudice Ms. Day’s claims under the Arkansas wrongful death statute. Thus, this case is dismissed with prejudice in its entirety.

         I. Factual Background

         The Court incorporates by reference its prior Order and will not restate the facts here (Dkt. No. 68).

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is proper if the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute and that the defendant is entitled to entry of judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Miner v. Local 373, 513 F.3d 854, 860 (8th Cir. 2008). “The mere existence of a factual dispute is insufficient alone to bar summary judgment; rather, the dispute must be outcome determinative under prevailing law.” Holloway v. Pigman, 884 F.2d 365, 366 (8th Cir. 1989). However, parties opposing a summary judgment motion may not rest merely upon the allegations in their pleadings. Buford v. Tremayne, 747 F.2d 445, 447 (8th Cir. 1984). The initial burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to establish that there is a genuine issue to be determined at trial. Prudential Ins. Co. v. Hinkel, 121 F.3d 364, 366 (8th Cir. 2008). “The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         III. Analysis

         The claim now at issue is Ms. Day’s claim under the Arkansas wrongful death law. A wrongful death action is for the recovery of damages the heirs suffered as a result of the decedent’s death. McDonald v. Pettus, 988 S.W.2d 9 (Ark. 1999). In her complaint, for relief, Ms. Day seeks “compensatory damages against the defendant for the wrongful death of James Avery Deweese, Sr., including but not limited to, the grief suffered, as well as the expense of the funeral and other related costs.” (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 44). She also seeks “a judgment for all compensatory damages against the Defendants, including, but not limited to, loss of enjoyment of life, the loss of life, as well as funeral expenses, and related costs against the Defendants in an amount to be determined by the jury, plus cost and all other relief to which the Plaintiffs may be entitled, including, but not limited to, the claims on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries of the decedent, and for any and all other damages that the Plaintiffs and beneficiaries are entitled to recover.” (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 45).

         The Court ordered supplemental briefing to address specifically whether the proximate cause standard applicable to claims under the Arkansas wrongful death statute is the same as the proximate cause standard applicable to Ms. Day’s medical negligence claims. In the Court’s previous Order on the government’s motion for summary judgment, the Court noted that “this Court acknowledges some inconsistency in rulings of the state circuit courts on the issue of whether the damages provision of the Arkansas Medical Malpractice Act vitiates the Arkansas wrongful death statute. This Court relies on prior federal district court decisions in the Eastern and Western Districts that hold that damages recoverable by beneficiaries under the wrongful death act are not inconsistent with the Arkansas Medical Malpractice Act. See McMullin v. United States, 515 F.Supp.2d 914 (E.D. Ark. 2007); Meredith v. Buchman, 101 F.Supp.2d 764 (E.D. Ark. 2000); Foncannon v. Phico Insurance Co., 104 F.Supp.2d 1091 (W.D. Ark. 2000).” (Dkt. No. 68, at 14).

         In its initial supplemental brief, the government acknowledges those cases and agrees that those cases hold that the damages recoverable by the beneficiaries under the wrongful death act are not inconsistent with the Arkansas Medical Malpractice Act. The government argues, however, that the instant case is distinguishable from those cases and contends that, “[i]n those cases, the courts rejected the argument that the medical malpractice statute’s damages provision superseded the wrongful death statute’s provisions - which would have prevented recovery for statutory beneficiaries. The plaintiffs there were allowed to allege recovery under both damages provisions. Those cases are distinguishable from the case at bar because the Plaintiff here has failed to establish liability for the underlying medical negligence, and, therefore, cannot recover damages.” (Dkt. No. 69, n.2).

         Ms. Day also relies on these federal court cases in her initial supplemental brief. The Court understands Ms. Day to cite these cases in support of her argument that the medical malpractice statute is not inconsistent with the wrongful death statute. Ms. Day also cites First Commercial Bank, N.A., Little Rock, Ark. v. United States, 727 F.Supp. 1300, 1302 (W.D. Ark. 1990), in support of her argument that actions for survivorship and actions for wrongful death are separate and distinct in nature. This Court agrees that the medical malpractice and wrongful death statutes are not inconsistent, but the Court finds that the true issue here is that the wrongful death claim stems from and is dependent upon the medical negligence claim, which has been dismissed with prejudice.

         The government contends that the proximate cause standard is the same for both the medical negligence and wrongful death claims because “the wrongful death action is derivative in nature from of the underlying tort.” (Dkt. No. 69, at 1-2). Further, the government argues that, because the wrongful death claim is based upon the previously-alleged medical negligence, it must also be dismissed. Ms. Day argues that the proximate cause standard for the wrongful death claim is different from that of medical negligence claims, and she contends that, “by looking to the language of the statutes, it is clear that both the damages and the causation standard of the Medical Malpractice Statute is separate and distinct from the damages and causation requirement included in the Wrongful Death Statute.” (Dkt. No. 70, at 2). Ms. Day’s argument ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.