Morrow v. Fundamental Long-Term CareAnnotate this Case
Lawrence and Evelyn Morrow filed a lawsuit against THI of South Carolina at Magnolia Place at Spartanburg, LLC (Magnolia Place) alleging personal injuries to Lawrence as a resident. The Morrows alleged that due to Magnolia Place's negligence, Lawrence sustained an injury while being assisted in the shower and was required to undergo surgery to remove a penile implant. They also alleged the nursing home failed to properly monitor Lawrence's diabetes or properly care for his pressure wounds. The Morrows also brought suit against Fundamental Long-Term Care Holdings, LLC, Fundamental Clinical Consulting, LLC, Fundamental Administrative Services, LLC, THI of Baltimore, Inc., THI of South Carolina, Inc., and THI Holdings, LLC (collectively, Fundamental Entities). The Morrows alleged the Fundamental Entities were vicariously liable for the negligence of Magnolia Place, and furthermore were directly responsible for Lawrence's injuries by way of their conscious disregard for his health in underfunding Magnolia Place, which led to issues with staffing, training, and nutrition. The Fundamental Entities thereafter filed a motion to bifurcate the trial pursuant to Rule 42(b), SCRCP between the nursing home negligence claims and the corporate negligence claims, and further, to stay discovery related to the corporate negligence claims. The Fundamental Entities argued bifurcation was proper because the issues of nursing home negligence and corporate negligence were distinct, and the Morrows could only move forward on the corporate negligence claims if they were first successful against Magnolia Place. As an extension, the Fundamental Entities argued bifurcation of the trial would simplify the issues, save significant judicial resources, and cut costs related to discovery. The trial court granted the motion, finding that without first proving negligence against the nursing home the Morrows' claims for corporate negligence could not proceed. Accordingly, the trial court ordered that discovery and a trial on the nursing home negligence claims could go forward, and only if the Morrows were successful, a new jury could hear the corporate negligence claims in a later proceeding. The court of appeals dismissed as interlocutory an appeal which severed a number of defendants from this lawsuit, ostensibly under the label of "bifurcation." The Morrows appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court's order went "far beyond our common understanding of bifurcation," thereby affecting a substantial right of the petitioners.