McIlwain v. Natchez Community Hospital, Inc.Annotate this Case
Dusty McIlwain brought his two-year-old son Hunter to the Natchez Community Hospital emergency room because Hunter had been vomiting, crying, and complaining of pain. Dr. Michael Wheelis, the emergency room doctor, knew Dusty and previously had worked with Carol McIlwain (a nurse), Dusty’s mother and Hunter’s grandmother. Dr. Wheelis was aware that Hunter had suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage previously as a result of a motor vehicle accident. That night, Dusty and Carol McIlwain informed Dr. Wheelis only that Hunter had abdominal pain and had vomited. Dr. Wheelis did not observe any neurological symptoms. After deciding that Hunter should be kept overnight in the hospital for observation, Dr. Wheelis, who had no authority to admit patients, spoke with Dr. Jennifer Russ, a pediatrician, at the request of the family, at approximately 2:10 a.m. After conferring, Drs. Russ and Wheelis diagnosed Hunter with dehydration and gastroenteritis. Several hours later, Hunter had a seizure, and was moved to the intensive care unit (ICU). Approximately 24 hours after he was admitted to the hospital, a CT scan of Hunter revealed that he suffered an aneurysm. He slipped into a coma and was pronounced dead several hours after the test. Jennifer McIlwain filed a medical malpractice suit against the doctors involved with Hunter's treatment. Trial was held more than ten years after Hunter had died, and ended in a deadlock. The trial court declared a mistrial. Following entry of the Order of Mistrial, the defendants filed motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), arguing that Jennifer McIlwain had failed to establish her burden of proof as to the issue of causation. The trial court granted the motions and entered a final judgment of dismissal as to all claims in favor of all defendants. Jennifer timely filed this appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The Court found that Jennifer offered sufficient evidence of the requisite elements of a medical-negligence case against Dr. Wheelis; therefore, the trial court erred in granting Dr. Wheelis’s motion for JNOV. However, Plaintiff’s expert Dr. Miller failed to develop evidence that a violation of the standard of care in the setting in which she practiced was equivalent to that as applied to Dr. Russ, and the Court found the trial court did not err in granting Dr. Russ’s motion for JNOV.