An elderly, frail woman who was a patient at a hospital decided to shower while preparing to leave the hospital. A registered nurse assisted her with undressing then left the room. The patient took a shower in the bathroom adjoining her hospital room. The patient alleged that when she was done, the nurse was standing in the doorway between the patient’s hospital room and the hallway outside. The patient stated, “I need some help—I've got to get out of here,” several times, but the nurse did not offer to assist her. On the other hand, the nurse alleged she assisted the patient after her shower but while passing through the doorway from the restroom to the hospital room, which was not wide enough for both women to walk side by side, the patient fell. The patient broke her hip, and lost mobility and her independence.
The patient sued the hospital and the nurse. The hospital and the nurse filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the patient’s claim was for medical malpractice. Medical malpractice claims must be supported by expert testimony to establish the applicable standard of care, breach of that standard of care, and proximate cause. The patient provided no expert testimony. The patient argued that her claim was for ordinary negligence and, therefore, no expert testimony was required.
The Mississippi Supreme Court held that assisting an elderly, frail patient walking to and from the shower was a professional service subject to medical malpractice law. The Mississippi medical malpractice statute applies to “injuries or wrongful death arising out of the course of medical, surgical or other professional services.” Assisting an elderly, frail patient walking to and from the shower requires specialized knowledge or training. Therefore, the patient’s claim was subject to the expert testimony requirement of medical malpractice claims and the patient was required to present expert testimony in support of her action.
See: Crosthwait v. Southern Health Corp. of Houston, Inc., 2012 WL 2044420 (Miss., June 7, 2012) (not designated for publication).