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Roper v. Coosa Valley Health Care

12/29/2000

Coosa Valley Health Care, Inc. ("Coosa Valley"), one of the defendants in a civil action pending in the Etowah Circuit Court, petitions for a writ of mandamus directing Judge Donald W. Stewart to vacate or amend his discovery orders of October 27, 1999, and December 27, 1999, compelling Coosa Valley to produce certain information and materials requested by the plaintiff. Coosa Valley contends that discovery of this information and these materials would contravene § 6- 5-551, Ala. Code 1975, a portion of the Medical Liability Act of 1987.


I.


In 1991, after experiencing complications from a stroke, Lucille A. Roper became a resident of a nursing-home facility operated by Coosa Valley. Mrs. Roper resided at the Coosa Valley facility from 1991 until February 15, 1999, when she was discharged to Gadsden Regional Hospital. On March 1, 1999, Mrs. Roper was admitted to McGuffey's Nursing Home. McGuffey's Nursing Home is not affiliated with Coosa Valley. Mrs. Roper resided at McGuffey's until March 23, 1999, when she was again admitted to Gadsden Regional Hospital; she died at that hospital on March 24, 1999. At the time of her death, Mrs. Roper was 91 years old.


On March 22, 1999, two days before her death, Mrs. Roper, acting by and through her son, S.W. Roper, sued Coosa Valley. The complaint described a number of fictitiously named defendants. Following Mrs. Roper's death, her son filed an amended complaint, adding McGuffey's and Gadsden Regional Hospital as defendants. On September 24, 1999, the trial court ordered that S.W. Roper be substituted as plaintiff in this action, and a second amended complaint was filed on October 28, 1999, to effectuate this change.


The complaint alleged, among other things, negligence in the treatment Mrs. Roper received while a resident of the Coosa Valley facility. The complaint alleged that Coosa Valley had provided Mrs. Roper negligent care, and it alleged the following, based on that alleged negligent care:


"LUCILLE A. ROPER suffered catastrophic injuries, extreme pain, suffering and mental anguish. The scope of severity of the recurrent negligence inflicted upon LUCILLE A. ROPER while under the care of the [Coosa Valley] facility accelerated the deterioration of her health and physical condition beyond that caused by the normal aging process and resulted in the physical and emotional trauma described below:


"a) Bedsores, otherwise known as decubitus ulcers or pressure sores which slowly developed on LUCILLE A. ROPER causing her to undergo otherwise unnecessary surgeries and medical treatments as well as causing excruciating pain, suffering and mental anguish;


"b) Ulcerated, pus-infiltrated and festering necrotic pressure sores and lesions on the body of LUCILLE A. ROPER which became so grossly infected and contaminated that the wound infection spread into her blood stream;


"c) Sepsis and blood-borne toxic infections;


"d) Malnutrition;


"e) Dehydration;


"f) Urinary Tract Infection;


"g) All of the above identified injuries as well as the conduct specified below caused LUCILLE A. ROPER to lose her personal dignity; caused her great shame and humiliation; caused extreme and unnecessary pain, degradation, anguish and emotional trauma; and, resulted in the amputation of her leg on November 20, 1998."


As part of the negligence claims, Roper also asserted that Coosa Valley had been negligent in hiring its employees and that it had failed to adequately train and supervise them.


Count one of the complaint alleges that Coosa Valley and certain fictitiously named defendants were negligent, wanton, or re

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