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Etheridge v. Medical Center Hospitals

Virginia Supreme Court
376 S.E.2d 525 (1989)


Facts

Richie Lee Wilson, a healthy 35-year-old mother of three and licensed nurse, underwent surgery performed by Dr. Clarence Trower, Jr., to restore a deteriorating jaw bone. The procedure consisted of removing a five-inch-long piece of Wilson’s rib bone and the subsequent grafting of the reshaped rib bone to Wilson’s jaw by an oral surgeon. As a result of Trower’s negligence, Wilson sustained severe and permanent injuries, including brain damage with limited memory and intelligence. Further, Wilson was paralyzed on her lift side, was confined to a wheelchair, and was unable to care for herself or her children. On behalf of Wilson, Louise Etheridge and Larry Dodd (plaintiffs) filed suit against Medical Center Hospitals (defendant) and Donald Gordon, the executor of the estate of Dr. Trower, who had since died, alleging that the defendants were jointly and severally liable for damages. At trial, the evidence showed that Wilson had spent more than $300,000 for care and medical treatment to date, but that she would incur additional, substantial expenses for the remainder of her life, which was estimated to be 39.9 years. At the close of the evidence, plaintiffs claimed they proved an economic loss in excess of $1.9 million. However, the jury held in favor of plaintiffs and awarded $2.75 million in damages against both defendants. However, pursuant to state law, the trial court reduced the judgment to $750,000. Wilson appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Stephenson, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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