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Williamson v. Baptist Health Medical Center

Supreme Court of Arkansas

March 16, 2017

ELIZABETH ANN WILLIAMSON, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF CYNTHIA FRAZIER APPELLANT
v.
BAPTIST HEALTH MEDICAL CENTER APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 60CV-2012-930] HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER PALMER, JUDGE

          Appellate Solutions, PLC, by: Deborah Truby Riordan; Law Offices of Eric D. Wewers, PLLC, by: Eric D. Wewers; and Rochelle & McCullough, LLP, by: Greg Bevel and Kathryn Reid, pro hac vice, for appellant.

          Munson, Rowlett, Moore & Boone, P.A., by: Bruce Munson, Jane M. Yocum, and Ashleigh Phillips, for appellees.

          JOSEPHINE LINKER HART, Justice

         Elizabeth Ann Williamson, administrator of the estate of Cynthia Frazier, appeals from a judgment entered and from the denial of a new-trial motion in a wrongful-death suit against Baptist Medical Center (Baptist). On appeal, she argues that the jury award omitted loss-of-life damages, rendering the award inadequate and contrary to the preponderance of the evidence. She also argues that the circuit court abused its discretion by substituting its verdict for that of the jury, and that the judgment entered grants Baptist an "unconscionable quadruple reduction in liability." In her supplemental argument, Williamson asserts that she did not waive the issue of the circuit court's misinterpretation of the verdict and, alternatively, the judgment on its face is not a final order. Baptist cross-appeals, contingent on this court ordering a new trial. It argues that the circuit court erred in giving certain jury instructions and in making some evidentiary rulings. We dismiss this appeal for lack of a final order.

         Our jurisdiction is pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 1-2(e) (2016), as we granted a petition for review filed by Williamson after the Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed. Williamson v. Baptist Health Med. Ctr., 2016 Ark.App. 78. When we grant a petition for review, we consider the appeal as though it had been originally filed in this court. Lagios v. Goldman, 2016 Ark. 59, 483 S.W.3d 810.

         Cynthia Frazier was fatally injured when she was struck by a car driven by fellow Baptist employee Cassandra Johnson as she walked from an employee parking lot across Emergency Drive on the Baptist campus. Frazier's estate sued Baptist for wrongful death. At the request of Baptist, the case was submitted to the jury on interrogatories. Interrogatory No. 5 contained the following language, "State the amount of damages, if any, which you find from the preponderance of the evidence was sustained by the Plaintiff in this case." The jury returned the following findings:

Answer:
$72, 400.00 awarded to the Estate of Cynthia Frazier
$250, 000.00 awarded to Elizabeth Williamson
$250, 000.00 awarded to Emily Blohm
$250, 000.00 awarded to Katherine Frazier

         The jury was also instructed to determine the percentage of fault to be apportioned between Baptist, Johnson, and Frazier. It fixed the percentages at 20 percent, 62 percent, 18 percent, respectively.

         Before we consider the arguments on appeal, we must first determine whether this court has jurisdiction to consider the merits. Denney v. Denney, 2015 Ark. 257, 464 S.W.3d 920. With the exception of certain interlocutory appeals listed in Rule 2 of the Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure-Civil, this court's appellate jurisdiction in civil matters is limited to final orders or judgments. Ark. R. App. P.-Civ. 2(a)(1). We have said that the requirement of a final judgment is the "cornerstone of appellate jurisdiction." Ark. State Claims Comm'n v. Duit ...


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