Pike v. HagamanAnnotate this Case
Pike underwent complex surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center to reconstruct the back of his mouth and was taken, for recovery, to the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit. Unit patients are often in very critical condition and each nurse is responsible for two patients at most. Following a surgery such as Pike’s, it is important to keep the patient’s head stable to enable blood to flow. Pike's doctors did not write any orders specifically governing the position of his head or neck. A surgeon at the hospital testified that he would rely on the skill and expertise of the nurse to position the patient’s head. Five days after the surgery, Pike was found in a position that would cause “venous compromise.” The staff was instructed to avoid this practice. That afternoon, Pike’s physician found Pike again in that position, his face and neck massively swollen. Pike had to undergo further surgery, which was not successful. Pike's malpractice complaint was dismissed on the basis of sovereign immunity. Pike argued that Hagaman, a registered nurse, was not entitled to sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed, noting that Hagaman’s discretion was cabined by physicians’ orders, that she could not refuse to accept a particular patient, that the hospital “had a high degree of control over Hagaman," who was supervised by senior staff, and that she was subject to hospital policies. The hospital pays her wages and determines her schedule.