Complaint Could Not Be Amended to Add Pre-Death Pain and Suffering Claim that Was Not in Original Complaint Subsequent to Summary Judgment

An elderly woman was admitted the hospital after complaining of chest pain. She underwent a number of diagnostic and treatment procedures. One such procedure involved the insertion of a stent. After this procedure Plavix, an anti-platelet drug, was not immediately administered. Subsequently, the woman suffered a heart attack. One of her doctors was not notified of the heart attack until three hours later. The woman and her mattress fell off her hospital bed. Two nurses caught the mattress and the woman and placed them back on the bed. She died in the hospital.


Her next of kin sued the hospital claiming that the woman would not have died had the hospital and its employees properly diagnosed and treated the woman. Specifically, the plaintiffs’ alleged that the failure to administer Plavix and failure to notify a doctor until three hours after Langston's heart attack proximately caused her death. The hospital filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The plaintiffs attempted to amend their complaint to add a claim for pre-death pain and suffering related to the incident where the woman fell off her hospital bed. The trial court did not allow the plaintiffs to amend their complaint. The plaintiffs appealed.


The Supreme Court of Arkansas affirmed the trial court’s decisions. The court found that none of the testimony indicated that had the decedent received Plavix after the initial stent procedure or the doctor been notified immediately after the heart attack the decedent would not have died. The plaintiffs did not offer any proof to the contrary. The plaintiffs’ failed to establish the nurse’s negligence breached the standard of care, absent any expert testimony that the nurses' alleged negligence proximately caused the patient's death. The court held that summary judgment was appropriate because the plaintiffs failed to offer any evidence regarding proximate causation when faced with ample evidence of a lack of proximate causation.


The court held that the trial court did not manifestly abuse its discretion when it refused to allow the plaintiffs to amend their complaint after the trial court had granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The claim for pre-death pain and suffering related to the incident where the woman fell off her hospital bed was not supported by the evidence where the witness who described the woman being dropped in her deposition, did not mention any conscious pain and suffering. Additionally, the pre-death claim was not pled in the original complaint before the court.


See: Neal v. Sparks Regional Medical Center, 2012 Ark. 328, 2012 WL 4017368 (Ark., September 13, 2012).