HOPE MEDICAL PARK HOSPITAL D/B/A MEDICAL PARK DOCTORS GROUP APPELLANT
CARRIE VARNER AND THOMAS VARNER APPELLEES
FROM THE HEMPSTEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 29CV-11-128]
HONORABLE DUNCAN CULPEPPER, JUDGE.
Wright, Lindsey & Jenkins LLP, by: Gary D. Marts, Jr.,
and Carson Tucker, for appellant.
Law Firm, by: Michael D. Ray; and David C. Graham, for
F. VIRDEN, JUDGE
Hope Medical Park Hospital d/b/a Medical Park Doctors Group
(Hope) appeals from a Hempstead County jury's verdict in
favor of appellees Carrie and Thomas Varner on their
negligence claim, which arose after Carrie fell and was
injured on the hospital's grounds. Hope argues that it
was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because it owed
Carrie no duty to warn her of a known danger. We reverse and
January 2012 the Varners filed an amended complaint against
Hope and other defendants alleging negligence, along with a
derivative claim on behalf of Carrie's spouse, stemming
from an incident that occurred on February 18, 2009. Carrie
alleged that she had been walking between a parking lot and
the hospital's entrance when she tripped over a tree
root, fell, and sustained injuries to her head, left knee,
right shoulder, and back.
trial was held on March 7 and 8, 2017. The jury returned a
verdict for Carrie and Thomas and awarded damages of $350,
000 and $0, respectively. Hope filed a motion for judgment
notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, alternatively, a
motion for a new trial. Following a hearing, both motions
were denied. Hope appeals from the trial court's denial
of its motion for directed verdict at trial and its
subsequent motion for JNOV.
Standard of Review
standard of review of the denial of a motion for directed
verdict is whether the jury's verdict is supported by
substantial evidence. Med. Assurance Co., Inc. v.
Castro, 2009 Ark. 93, 302 S.W.3d 592. Similarly, in
reviewing the denial of a motion for JNOV, we will reverse
only if there is no substantial evidence to support the
jury's verdict, and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Id. Substantial
evidence is that which goes beyond suspicion or conjecture
and is sufficient to compel a conclusion one way or the
other. Id. In determining whether there is
substantial evidence, we view the evidence and all reasonable
inferences arising therefrom in the light most favorable to
the party on whose behalf judgment was entered. Id.
testified that she had worked as a nurse at the hospital in
Hope for approximately fifteen years before the accident. She
said that she had worked all three shifts at the hospital.
She testified that there was a median with a tree in the
middle of it located between a parking lot and the front
entrance of the hospital. She said that she had been crossing
the median off and on for fifteen years. According to Carrie,
she was aware that there were tree roots in the median
sticking up two to three inches from the ground.
testified that she was at the hospital on February 18, 2009,
to sit for a deposition. She said that she had parked near
the median, walked across the median, and entered the
hospital. In the front office, she briefly spoke with the
secretary, and because she had time before the start of her
deposition, she returned to her car to get some paperwork.
She said that it was approximately 1:15 p.m. when she was
walking back to her car. Carrie testified that she could see
the tree roots on the day of the accident but recalled that
it was "kinda shadowy" under the tree. Carrie
testified, "I thought I was walking carefully, and next
thing I knew I started stumbling. I had hit the root, and I
couldn't regain my balance, and I just kept going head
first kinda, and I hit the bumper of a Jeep." Carrie
testified that she had been wearing nurse's shoes that
day; she had not been in a hurry; and she did not have her
phone with her. Carrie agreed on cross-examination that she
thought she could avoid tripping on the tree roots if she was
being careful and paying attention.
to Carrie, there were no signs directing foot traffic between
the parking lot and the hospital. She said that walking
across the median was the shortest route in that it was a
direct path to the hospital's front entrance. Carrie said
that she also crossed the median to avoid walking through
traffic on each side of the median. She agreed ...