On Thursday a unanimous Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed a jury verdict of $484.141.98 in Robinson v. Corr.

Facts:

This was a medical malpractice case. In 1998, Regina Corr gave birth at Gulfport Memorial Hospital. Her OB/GYN (Dr. Charles Robinson) delivered by C-section. During the procedure, Regina’s uterus was lacerated, requiring repair.

A urology consult the following day revealed that the left ureter was sutured. The urologist placed a nephrostomy tube to drain urine from the blockage into a nephrostomy bag. Another urologist later inserted stents to widen the blocked area until the blockage dissipated.

Regina had no further complaints after May 1999.

Allegations and Trial:

Plaintiff alleged that Dr. Robinson negligently sutured the ureter during the repair. During a 2001 deposition, Dr. Robinson denied suturing the ureter.

The case was tried in 2014. At trial, Dr. Robinson attempted to give new testimony concerning the repair that was not previously disclosed in discovery. Dr. Robinson wanted to testify that he would not have attempted to remove the suture if he had known of its existence due to potential bleeding. The trial court refused to allow the testimony because it was not previously disclosed.

Another trial issue involved defense counsel opening the door by asking a question to Plaintiff’s expert and then not liking the answer.The trial court found that defense counsel ‘opened the door’ by asking the question.

The jury rendered a verdict for the following damages:

  • $55,634.78- past medical expenses
  • $8,507.20- lost wages
  • $420,000- pain and suffering.

The trial court denied Defendant’s motion for remittitur.

Joe Sam Owen and Robert P. Meyers, Jr. represented the Plaintiff. Brett K. Williams and Joshua Danos represented the Defendant.

Judge Lisa Dodson presided in the case.

Decision:

Chief Justice Waller wrote the Court’s unanimous opinion. On the issue of the undisclosed testimony by Dr. Robinson, the Court stated:

We find that Dr. Robinson’s expert designation was insufficient to put Regina on notice of the proffered testimony and new theory at trial. The very purpose of disclosing expert opinions before trial is ‘to prevent trials from being tainted with surprise and unfair advantage’…Based on Dr. Robinson’s expert designation, we find that the opinion–he would not have removed the stitch from the ureter due to the threat of uncontrollable blood loss–was not meaningfully disclosed before opening statements at trial. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding Dr. Robinson’s proposed testimony…

On the issue of the challenged testimony of the Plaintiff’s expert, the Court found:

we believe the answer was responsive to Dr. Robinson’s counsel’s questions as to excessive blood loss and the concerns with performing an intraoperative IVP in light of such blood loss.

The Court also applied an abuse of discretion standard to the trial court’s ruling that a party ‘opens the door’ to testimony by asking a question on the subject and concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

Finally, the Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for remittitur.

My Take:

This decision is a gut-shot to the narrative some defense lawyers still cling to that the Mississippi Supreme Court will not affirm any plaintiff verdict. That has been a bad argument for years–but a decision like this drives the point home.

Litigation has slowed down so much that the Court doesn’t see many appeals from jury verdicts any more.