WHITE RIVER HEALTH SYSTEM, INC., d/b/a WHITE RIVER MEDICAL CENTER, ET AL. APPELLANTS
MADELINE LONG, AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF DANIELLE TOTH, DECEASED APPELLEE
FROM THE INDEPENDENCE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT NO. 32CV-12-26]
HONORABLE MAUREEN HARROD, JUDGE
Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP, by: William M. Griffin III
and Tyler D. Bone, for appellant.
Scholtens & Averitt, PLC, by: Chris A. Averitt, for
D. VAUGHT, JUDGE.
White River Health System, Inc., d/b/a White River Medical
Center (WRMC), appeals from the order entered by the Circuit
Court of Independence County on September 13, 2017, denying
its motion for summary judgment based on the affirmative
defense of charitable immunity. On appeal, WRMC argues that
it presented prima facie evidence demonstrating its
entitlement to summary judgment as a charitable entity immune
from liability and suit in tort and that appellee, Madeline
Long, as special administratrix of the estate of Danielle
Toth, deceased (Estate), failed to meet proof with proof to
show a genuine issue of material fact. Because WRMC has not
appealed from a final order, we lack jurisdiction and must
dismiss without prejudice.
January 20, 2012, Randall Johnson, as special administrator
of the estate of Danielle Toth, deceased, filed this action
against multiple defendants, including WRMC, asserting claims
for wrongful death and medical negligence. WRMC answered the
complaint, denied the allegations of negligence, and pled
that it was a charitable, nonprofit organization entitled to
immunity from liability and suit.
2012, WRMC filed a motion for summary judgment based on the
charitable-immunity doctrine. To the motion, WRMC attached a
copy of its articles of incorporation as a nonprofit
corporation and an affidavit by Gary L. Bebow, the chief
executive officer of WRMC. In July 2012, in further support
of its motion for summary judgment, WRMC filed its 2009
federal-income-tax records as an organization exempt from
income tax. In December 2012, the circuit court held an
unrecorded hearing on WRMC's motion for summary judgment;
however, no written order was entered disposing of the
August 18, 2017, the Estate filed a motion for sanctions
against WRMC. The motion alleged that WRMC had committed
discovery violations from 2012 to 2017 by repeatedly failing
and refusing to provide the Estate with a complete set of
Toth's medical records and by providing inaccurate
information regarding its liability coverage. The Estate
requested that it be granted both a default judgment against
WRMC and a jury trial on the issue of damages.
September 8, 2017, a hearing on both WRMC's motion for
summary judgment and on the Estate's motion for sanctions
was held. At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court
orally denied WRMC's motion for summary judgment and
granted the Estate's motion for sanctions. On September
13, 2017, the circuit court entered an order denying
WRMC's motion for summary judgment. The court found
that there are disputed facts as to whether the
organization's goal is to break even; whether the
organization depends upon contributions and donations for its
existence; whether the organization provides its services
free of charge to those unable to pay; and whether its
directors receive and officers receive any compensation.
the court's order bifurcated trial: a trial on the
charitable-immunity issue was to be immediately followed by a
trial on the medical-malpractice claims. This appeal
appeal, WRMC argues that the circuit court erred in denying
summary judgment because it presented prima facie evidence to
demonstrate its entitlement to charitable immunity from
liability and suit as a matter of law and that the Estate
failed to meet proof with proof to show a genuine issue of
material fact on the issue. We are unable to reach the merits
of this argument because WRMC has not appealed from a final
rules of appellate procedure require that an order be final
to be appealable. Muntaqim v. Hobbs, 2017 Ark. 97,
at 2, 514 S.W.3d 464, 466 (citing Ark. R. App. P.-Civ. 2
(2016); Denney v. Denney, 2015 Ark. 257, at 4, 464
S.W.3d 920, 922). Generally, the denial of a motion for
summary judgment is neither reviewable nor appealable.
Ark. Elder Outreach of Little Rock, Inc. v.
Thompson, 2012 Ark.App. 681, at 4, 425 S.W.3d 779, 783.
However, our court has routinely reviewed and decided orders
in cases where the circuit court refused to grant a
summary-judgment motion based on the defense of charitable
immunity. Id. at 4, 425 S.W.3d at 783; Gain,
Inc. v. Martin, 2016 Ark.App. 157, at 2, 485 S.W.3d 729,
731-32; Progressive Eldercare Servs.-Saline, Inc. v.
Cauffiel, 2016 Ark.App. 523, at 2, 508 S.W.3d 59, 61-62;
Progressive Eldercare Servs.-Bryant, Inc. v. Price,
2016 Ark.App. 528; Progressive Eldercare Servs.-Saline,
Inc. v. Garrett, 2016 Ark.App. 518.
these cases, appellate jurisdiction was based on Arkansas
Rule of Appellate Procedure-Civil 2(a)(2), which provides
that an appeal may be taken from "an order which in
effect determines the action and prevents a judgment from
which an appeal might be taken, or discontinues the
action." Ark. R. App. P.-Civ. 2(a)(2) (2017). Based on
Rule 2(a)(2), our court has held that it had jurisdiction in
cases where the refusal to grant a summary-judgment motion
had the effect of determining that the appellant was not
entitled to its defense of charitable immunity from suit, as
the right of immunity from suit is effectively lost if a case
is permitted to go to trial. Thompson, 2012 Ark.App.
681, at 4, 425 S.W.3d at ...