Author Topic: Peninsula's Adult Program - a horror story.  (Read 1737 times)

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Peninsula's Adult Program - a horror story.
« on: March 02, 2009, 02:16:53 AM »
This was a malpractice action against Peninsula's adult facility for negligent patient care.  Larry Rich was in "a special care unit, locked and monitored, where suicidal patients were constantly observed", an adult version of STU.  Kids kill themselves in programs and the negligent facility and staff walk or receive meager punishments.  

BUT - Larry Rich was an adult...read how differently his RTC death was treated than the deaths of teens in programs.  Rich's widow won her malpractice suit, and the decision was upheld by Judge Inman in the Court of Appeals when Peninsula appealed, bitching about how the facility was described by plaintiff's counsel and the award of compensatory damages of $650,000.00 was decried as "excessive".  Based on Larry Rich's projected earnings if he had lived to 65 and discounting salary increases (he was 39 when he passed), the award of $650,000.00 is less than Rich's projected earnings.  

How does Peninsula deal with investigations of their negligence?  See below.  They destroy all evidence, and defiantly.  The wife of the majority stockholder of Peninsula was the nursing director who disposed of the damning evidence, and there's no mention of Nurse Greer being charged with obstruction or destroying evidence.
 
Quote from: "COURT OF APPEALS OF TENNESSEE, EASTERN SECTION"
Rich was wearing street clothes and the nurse discovered three tablets beside him on the bed. A note was discovered on a table beside the bed asking that the taped message in the recorder on the table be delivered to Rich's attorney. Rich was transferred by ambulance to Blount Memorial Hospital emergency room at approximately 8:40 A.M. He died there that afternoon at approximately 1:50 P.M. of cardiac arrest secondary to an Amitriptyline overdose.

Peninsula did not report the incident and refused to allow the police to investigate when they arrived, following a report by Blount Memorial Hospital. Michelle Painter was in charge of the hospital at that time and advised the officers to obtain a search warrant, but later on the police were allowed to investigate under protest. At that time, the room had been "straightened up" and the suicide note and other items had been removed and locked in the nurses' station.

A room checklist would indicate the identity of the individuals who allegedly checked Rich hourly. This document was subsequently destroyed and the decision to do so was made by Nancy Greer who was Director of Nursing and was also the spouse of the defendant's (Peninsula's) majority stockholder. A nurse's worksheet is a record to which any of the hospital personnel can contribute which would show information about the patient gathered throughout a 24 hour period. This document also came to Nancy Greer and was destroyed. The tape recorded instructions from the day shift to the night shift on June 22nd were obliterated the following day after Rich had died but before Peninsula had been advised of his death.

     04/06/90 BRITTANY RICH v. PENINSULA PSYCHIATRIC

     COURT OF APPEALS OF TENNESSEE, EASTERN SECTION, AT KNOXVILLE

          
April 6, 1990

BRITTANY RICH, BNF PATRICIA LOWE, PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE
v.
PENINSULA PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL, INC., DEFENDANT/APPELLANT


From the Law Court, Blount County.

Rehearing Denied July 23, 1990

Earl R. Layman, John T. O'Connor, James E. Wagner, Knoxville, for the Appellee

Hogin, London and Montgomery, Knoxville, for the Appellant

William H. Inman, Special Judge, Clifford E. Sanders, P.j. (e.s.), Houston M. Goddard, J., Concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Inman

WILLIAM H. INMAN, SPECIAL JUDGE

This is a hospital malpractice action wherein the appellant was onerated with substantial compensatory and punitive damages for the wrongful death of Larry M. Rich whom the jury found to have died as a result of negligent patient care.

At the time of his death in June 1985, Larry Rich was thirty-nine years old and had been employed for fifteen years in the Law Department of Southern Railroad Company as an investigator. His health history included periods of panic attacks occurring since adolescence, previous psychotherapy, and a psychiatric hospitalization several years previously. He also had a history of back problems with laminectomy surgery, two fusion surgeries, and had a 30% disability from these back problems. In May 1985, believing that he was having a heart attack he was hospitalized in the coronary care unit of University of Tennessee Hospital, where his chest pain was determined to be produced by anxiety and re flux rather than a cardiac problem. He was referred to Peninsula Psychiatric Hospital as a voluntary patient on June 4, 1985, by the psychotherapist he had been seeing for some years, Dr. Bob Wahler. His second marriage had ended in divorce in October 1984 and his emotional problems were exacerbated by his inability to accept the divorce. Because his religious ethic was strong he believed that spiritually he was still married to his second wife. His first marriage had ended in divorce in 1981 and his daughter by that marriage, aged 10, was his next of kin on whose behalf this suit was filed.

Peninsula maintained a special care unit, locked and monitored, where suicidal patients were constantly observed. It conceded its obligation to prevent a patient's suicide and to further that end obtained written permission from the patient to search his person.

Rich's condition was diagnosed as "dysthemic disorder, panic disorder versus generalized anxiety disorder, and dependent character disorder." Treatment by the hospital staff was supplemented by continued outpatient treatment by Dr. Wahler. The treatment goals for Rich while hospitalized were to decrease his panic attacks, decrease his obsessive and compulsive traits, alleviate the separation process from his second ex-wife, monitor his chemical dependency on pain medication resulting from his back problems, and decrease his manipulation of staff and therapists. Rich had at times expressed suicidal ideations, but said that his deep religious convictions precluded suicide and he had never made any attempt at suicide. While hospitalized he received various medications, including medication for a thyroid condition, for headache pain, and for depression. Neither his treating physicians nor anyone at Peninsula ever prescribed Amitriptyline for Rich.

Rich was a patient in the adult psychiatric section of the hospital, which is a "care level 2" status in which staff conduct hourly checks of the patients. During the course of his hospitalization he was twice placed in an increased level of care, the special care unit. On the first occasion, lasting from the evening of June 13 until the morning of June 17, he had become tearful and anxious and had suicidal thoughts after telephoning his ex-wife on their wedding anniversary. The second occasion, a 45-minute period on June 20, occurred when he had a panic attack. He left the hospital on four occasions, twice when he went to his outpatient therapist by hospital-provided transportation on June 18 and June 20, and twice for therapeutic assignments approved by his psychiatrist when he drove his own automobile to see his therapist on June 10 and to get a haircut, visit his mother and check his mail on June 22.

When Rich returned to Peninsula on June 22 at 2:30 P.M. he was checked in by Silvers, a mental health associate who checked the contents of the brown paper bag Rich brought in, asked him for his car keys and any "sharps", medications or other contraband. Rich was quiet, stated he felt nervous on therapeutic assignment, but that it had gone well and that his medications helped his anxiety. He asked and received permission to return to his car. Silvers testified that he did not remember where the paper bag was at that time, but no search was conducted. This proved to be a critical omission.

When called by intercom for his 6:00 P.M. medications, he replied "okay" but did not go for them, and except for this one-word response Rich was never again observed in a conscious condition.

Patricia Lowe (first ex-wife) received two calls from Rich on the afternoon of the 22nd, one shortly after his return to the hospital. She reported that he was terribly upset as a result of his encounter with Sylvia (second ex-wife) to the extent that his voice was trembly and he was hard to understand. Patricia called Peninsula and reported that she was very worried because Rich was so upset and requested that Rich be requested to call her and when he did not, she again called and was told by Peninsula personnel that, "we don't give them their messages; . . . its their responsibility to come up here and get them".

When Rich did not come for his medication at 10:00 he was checked by Imogene Woodfin. She did not observe the suicide note and tape recorder which was discovered the next morning, nor did she observe the three Amitriptyline pills on the bed beside him. She testified that she looked closely enough to see that his chest was rising and falling but she failed to observe that he was in street clothes and shoes. Nurse Woodfin attempted to arouse Rich but was unsuccessful and she reported to the Charge Nurse, Michelle Painter, that she was unable to awaken him. Ms. Painter told Nurse Woodfin that she (Ms. Painter) would check on Rich but she failed to do so.

Thereafter the night shift charge nurse came on duty, was informed that Rich had a difficult therapeutic assignment, had tried to see his ex-wife, and had been anxious and upset, had been given verbal support by the staff, had made a phone call, had gone to bed in the mid-afternoon and had not taken his 6:00 P.M. and 10:00 P.M. medications. Charting done at 6:00 A.M. the next morning showed that at hourly checks Rich appeared to be asleep. At approximately 8:00 A.M. when the charge nurse went to Rich's room to give him morning medication, his attempts to arouse Rich were unsuccessful. Rich was wearing street clothes and the nurse discovered three tablets beside him on the bed. A note was discovered on a table beside the bed asking that the taped message in the recorder on the table be delivered to Rich's attorney. Rich was transferred by ambulance to Blount Memorial Hospital emergency room at approximately 8:40 A.M. He died there that afternoon at approximately 1:50 P.M. of cardiac arrest secondary to an Amitriptyline overdose.

Peninsula did not report the incident and refused to allow the police to investigate when they arrived, following a report by Blount Memorial Hospital. Michelle Painter was in charge of the hospital at that time and advised the officers to obtain a search warrant, but later on the police were allowed to investigate under protest. At that time, the room had been "straightened up" and the suicide note and other items had been removed and locked in the nurses' station.

A room checklist would indicate the identity of the individuals who allegedly checked Rich hourly. This document was subsequently destroyed and the decision to do so was made by Nancy Greer who was Director of Nursing and was also the spouse of the defendant's majority stockholder. A nurse's worksheet is a record to which any of the hospital personnel can contribute which would show information about the patient gathered throughout a 24 hour period. This document also came to Nancy Greer and was destroyed. The tape recorded instructions from the day shift to the night shift on June 22nd were obliterated the following day after Rich had died but before Peninsula had been advised of his death.

II

At the close of all the evidence the defendant moved for a directed verdict on grounds that: 1) the plaintiff had introduced no evidence to establish that the alleged negligence of the defendant was a proximate cause of the plaintiff's damages and 2) a wrongful death action was barred under the uncontroverted evidence. These grounds were again asserted by the defendant in its motion for judgment n.o.v. or for a new trial and again overruled.

The case against the defendant is based on acts and omissions over the period from Saturday, June 22, 1985 until Sunday morning, June 23, when Rich's distressed condition was discovered. The plaintiff asserted two theories of recovery against defendant: the first for deviations from required care of deceased which failed to effect a prevention of his ingestion of the drug, and the second for deviations from the required care of deceased in failing to subsequently discover that he had overdosed in time to save him from the fatal effects of the drug. The defendant argues that its directed verdict motions should have been granted as to both of these theories, because the suicide was a deliberate act, and because no evidence of proximate cause was presented to show that any negligence of defendant affected the outcome. The defendant argues that a verdict could not be predicated on the second theory because no evidence of proximate cause was presented to show that any negligence of the defendant was a cause of Rich's death. In addition to the issue of whether a judgment N.O.V. should have been entered, the appellant presents for our review the further issues:

1. Whether the Court erred in allowing plaintiff to read into proof portions of the discovery depositions of Michelle Painter and Will Barton on a holding that they were managing agents of the defendant.

2. Whether defendant is entitled to a new trial on grounds of improper conduct of plaintiff's counsel.

3. Whether the trial court erred in submitting the issue of punitive damages to the jury.

4. Whether the trial court erred in refusing defendant's requested jury instructions on the issue of punitive damages.

5. Whether the damage verdicts were so excessive as to require a remittitur.

Ill

Our standard of review is prescribed by Rule 13(d), Rules of Appellate Procedure. Findings of fact by a jury in a civil action shall be set aside only if there is no material evidence to support the verdict. A motion for a directed verdict may be granted only if no material evidence exists from which a jury could find for the party against whom the motion is made, and courts are required to look to all the evidence in favor of the plaintiff, to discard all countervailing evidence, to take the strongest legitimate view of the evidence for the plaintiff and to allow all reasonable inferences from it in favor of the plaintiff. Walker v. Associates Com. Corp., 673 S.W.2d 517 (Ct. App. 1983); Royal v. Days Inns of America, Inc., 708 S.W.2d 411 (Ct. App. 1985).

There was evidence which the jury was at liberty to accredit that Rich ingested the drug on the afternoon of June 22, and that he thereafter lay on his bed, in street clothes and shoes, until the following morning. The jury could have concluded that the pills found in his bed on the morning of June 23, and the tape recorder with the dictated suicide note, were in place throughout the night, which might reasonably have been detected had the hospital performed its represented duty. The appellant concedes there was evidence that it deviated from an acceptable standard of care by: (1) failing to check Rich's pockets on his return from the therapeutic visitation; (2) failing to search his person and the paper sack on his return from the car; (3) and failing to keep an informed chart history.

Superimposed upon these acts is evidence from which a jury might further conclude that the defendant's employees were negligent by (4) failing to heed the significance of, and consequently of raising an alarm about, the wearing of shoes and street clothes while abed, or failing to exercise due care to observe the manner of his dress; (5) failing to assess the extent of Rich's desperation upon his return from a therapeutic assignment; (6) the failure of the charge nurse to read the chart, and her lack of information, otherwise available, concerning the renewal of Rich's anguish by contact with Sylvia; (7) failing to monitor Rich more closely after his contact with Sylvia, since his suicidal tendencies were then more pronounced, as known to the appellant, and (8) failure of the charge nurse to apprise herself that Rich had been a patient in Category 1 care as a suicide risk. While the appellant concedes that it failed to conduct an adequate search when Rich returned from his therapeutic assignment, it insists that no evidence was presented to establish that an adequate search would have discovered the drugs. This argument essentially begs the question; the defendant had the duty - the contractual duty - to search Rich and discover the very pills which destroyed him, and the point cannot be successfully rebutted by the claim that the plaintiff failed to prove that any search would have been successful. The jury was clearly entitled to infer from the failure to search that had a search been conducted under the circumstances Rich presented that the destructive pills would have been discovered.

The appellant argues, see: German v. Nichopoulas, 577 S.W.2d 197 (Ct. App. 1978) that positive proof of negligence does not constitute proof of causation, and that this record is devoid of any proof of causation, a necessary element to be proved. As we have observed, there was evidence presented from which the jury might lawfully conclude that the negligence of the appellant enabled Rich to transport the drugs; and the appellee, pursuing the causal relationship, adduced evidence that in light of his severe disturbance Rich might reasonably have been expected to ingest them. We think the inadequate search was directly and causally related to Rich's death by his own hand. Again, the argument of the appellant that no evidence was presented that a conformed and thorough search would have found the drug essentially begs the question, because this argument, if valid, takes from the jury its prerogative to make reasonable inferences from established facts.

The appellant further argues in this vein that no medical evidence was presented of the probable time of the overdose or the time at which the effects of the overdose became irreversible. We note the testimony of a medical expert, Dr. Layman, "that earlier intervention would have saved him". Another expert testified that the effects of the drug were consistent with Rich's condition as early as 10:00 P.M., and that the sooner therapy is administered the better the results. As held in Johnson v. Ely, 205 S.W.2d 759 (Ct App. 1947)

"It was for the jury to weigh the probabilities in the light of all the proof and determine the weight of the inferences to be reasonably drawn from the circumstances relied upon by plaintiff in the light of the possibilities or probabilities appearing from the proof offered by defendant. Because there were possibilities or even probabilities opposed to the circumstantial evidence in the case did not overcome as a matter of law the force of the circumstantial evidence, and in such a case a verdict based on the whole evidence would not be the product of speculation and conjecture. Law v. Louisville & H.R. Co., 179 Tenn. 687, 170 S.W.2d 360."

Causation may be established by proof of facts and circumstances which demonstrates a reasonable probability that the negligence of the appellant was the proximate cause of the death of Rich. In Crowe v. Prevost, 374 S.W.2d 645 (Ct. App. 1963) the Court stated

"The rule that a verdict in a malpractice action cannot be based on speculation or conjecture as to cause does not necessarily require that the plaintiff prove causation by direct and positive evidence, which excludes every other possible hypothesis as to the cause of the injuries, it generally being held that if a fair preponderance of the evidence discloses facts and circumstances proving a reasonable probability that the defendant's negligence or want of skill was the proximate cause of the injury, the plaintiff has supported his burden of proof sufficiently to justify a verdict in his behalf."

The case of Truan v. Smith, 578 S.W.2d 73 (Tenn. 1979), is of precedential value, because of the expert evidence that the sooner therapy is administered the better the results, and that earlier intervention would have saved Rich. In Truan, Dr. Truan failed to diagnose a breast cancer. The proof showed that if he had diagnosed and informed the patient that she might have a cancer, she could have returned for a recheck and if so the patient's chances of either remission or recovery would have been materially increased. In affirming a jury verdict for the plaintiff, the Court, said,

"Finally, there was medical testimony that metastasis had not occurred on May 6, 1974, and that, had the cancer been treated before that date, Mrs. Smith's chances of either remission or recovery would have materially increased. From these facts, we think the jury reasonably could conclude that, in failing to detect the breast mass when he had an opportunity to do so on both November 12, 1973, and March 25, 1974, and in failing to act on the patient's complaints on March 25, 1974, Dr. Truan did not exercise that degree of care and diligence required of him in providing medical care to Mrs. Smith, and that this lapse either materially increased the changes of or accelerated Mrs. Smith's death."

Appellant insists that there is no evidence in this record from which the jury could conclude that Rich's death would not have occurred save for the negligent acts ascribed to it, because no witness testified that had "the defendant been free of negligence, Rich would not have ingested the pills." This argument is bottomed squarely on a Conclusion; and even the appellant conceded that the purpose of Rich's hospitalization was to enable him to cope with losing Sylvia; i.e., prevent his suicide. The appellant failed to guard against the very acts which occasioned the contractual hospitalization in the first instance, and this failure is equatable to causation and proximate cause.

The appellant insists that the voluntary and deliberate act of suicide, when considered in the light of the asserted lack of evidence of proximate cause, or causation, bars a recovery, and refers us to Weather v. Pilkington, 754 S.W.2d 75, (Ct. App. 1988) in support of its argument. Weathers holds that if a suicidal person understands the nature of his act and has a wilful purpose to accomplish it, he has no cause of action for his own deliberate act. In that case, a general practitioner had refused to commit the deceased despite several suicide threats and attempts. The obvious argument was that the family physician should have been forewarned and thus committed him to safe-keeping. The appellee urges us that Weathers is not in point, because the facts were far different from the case at bar. Standard of care in a psychiatric hospital was not involved. On the contrary, the departure from the standard of care alleged was that Dr. Pilkinton failed to admit the decedent, Michael Weathers, to a psychiatric unit. The trial Judge directed a verdict in favor of Dr. Pilkinton on the grounds that Weathers' intentional act in shooting himself was an intervening cause and even if Dr. Pilkinton were guilty of proximate negligence, he was insulated from liability.

In the present case, the appellant assumed the responsibility to protect the deceased against suicide as testified to by Peninsula's physician, Dr. Lane Cook. The purpose of Rich's hospitalization at Peninsula was because of his inability to cope with losing Sylvia and Peninsula maintained a special care unit which was locked and monitored for the purpose of discharging its duty to suicidal patients. It obtained a written contract from its patient, giving it the right to search and confiscate.

The duty of a psychiatric hospital to guard against a suicide is discussed in the case of Stokes v. Leung, 651 S.W.2d 704 (Tenn. App. 1982). Stokes sued on behalf of his ward, Mary Hall, who had jumped from an unsecured room in the hospital. She sued the treating physician, Dr. Leung, and the hospital, but took a non-suit as to hospital on the morning of trial. The Court said with reference to the duty of a psychiatric hospital to prevent a patient from harming himself:

"We hold that when a hospital elects to accept a patient with psychiatric disorders and with orders that 'suicide precautions' be taken, the prime responsibility to afford reasonably safe facilities and reasonable attendance to the patient's needs to prevent self injury lies with the hospital and not the physician. The physician is not in constant attendance. The hospital is supposed to be. If a doctor prescribes certain medication and the hospital nurse administers another, is the doctor liable for that error? We know of no case in this state that so holds. What we have said on this point is, as we see it, nothing more than a restatement of the rule enunciated in O'Quin vs. Baptist Memorial Hospital, (1947 Tenn.) 184 Tenn. 570, 201 S.W.2d 694, and reiterated in Spivey vs. St. Thomas Hospital, (1947 M.S.) 31 Tenn. App. 12, 211 S.W.2d 450 that:

'The general rule is that a hospital is required to exercise such reasonable care toward a patient as his known condition may require and the extent and character of this care depends upon the circumstances of each case.'"

We think that when the intervening act is itself the foreseeable harm that shapes a defendant's duty, the defendant who fails to guard against the act will not be relieved from liability when the act occurs . . . W. Keeton, Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts, 44, at 303 (5th ed. 1984); Restatement (Second) of Torts 448, 449 (1964). This is the case even when the intervening act is committed by the plaintiff himself. 4 F. Harper, F. James & O. Gray, The Law of Torts, 20.5, at 158 (2d ed. 1986).

We hold that the motion for a directed verdict was properly denied.

IV

The trial court allowed the plaintiff to read to the jury portions of the discovery depositions of Painter and Barton, charge nurses, upon the theory that they were managing agents within the ambit of Rules 32.01 and 43.02, Rules of Civil Procedure. The appellant objected on the ground that these witnesses did not meet the definition of managing agents. The appellee argues that the objection to the testimony of these witnesses on the ground they were not managing agents at the time of the taking of their depositions is raised for the first time on appeal since the objection at trial was offered solely on the ground they were not managing agents. We see no need to draw this issue so fine, because the jury-out testimony of Barton established that he and Painter, within the purview of Seaboard Coastline Railroad Co. v. Hughes, 521 S.W.2d 558, (Tenn. 1975), were managing agents. In Hughes, a managing agent is defined as any person who:

1. Acts with superior authority and is invested with general powers to exercise his judgment and discretion in dealing with his principal's affairs (as distinguished from a common employee, who does only what he is told to do; has no discretion about what he can or cannot do; and is responsible to an immediate superior who has control over his acts);

2. Can be depended upon to carry out his principal's directions to give testimony at the demand of a party engaged in litigation with his principal; and

3. Can be expected to identify himself with the interests of his principal rather than those of the other party.

In addition, the Court set out six factors to be used in determining whether or not an employee is a managing agent. Those factors, listed on page 563:

a. the possibility of hostile or adverse interest.

b. the loyalty of the individual concerned.

c. the extent of his authority.

d. the extent to which his actions are discretionary.

e. the precise nature of his duties.

f. the availability of any other person of higher title or rank to testify.

The Court said, "None of these factors is controlling, but each should be considered."

In the jury-out hearing, Mr. Barton acknowledged that a Charge Nurse has no direct supervisor and that he was "responsible for making any decision about whatever went on" and that there was no one present to overrule his decisions.

Michelle Painter testified that she was the Charge Nurse at the hospital on weekends, working from 8:00 A.M. to Midnight on Saturday and Sunday. When questioned concerning her authority, she said:

Question: During that period of time, were you in charge, were you the boss at the hospital over that period of time?

Answer: Yes, I was. They had a nurse who was responsible for the adult chemical dependency unit and I was a consultant person on that unit. The rest of the hospital, yes. I would expect -- my understanding was I was over all. In the issues of hospital management, I was the boss.

We agree with the trial Judge that Painter and Barton were managing agents within the Rule. This issue is without merit.

V

The appellant complains of the conduct of counsel for the appellee in repeatedly referencing it as a for-profit corporation, and stressing the relative economic positions of the parties. These remarks were not objected to, and hence the issue is not preserved on appeal. Morgan v. Duffy, 30 SW 735 (1895); Lee v. Lee, 719 S.W.2d 295 (Ct. App. 1986). Comments of counsel during closing arguments are preserved in the record, and there can be little doubt of their departure from propriety. But as held in the early case of East Tenn., Virginia and Georgia Ry. Co. v. Gurley, 80 Tenn. 46 (1883) much must be left to the good sense of the jury, and the remarks, as likely as not, might well have been counterproductive. This issue is without merit.

VI

The appellant says that the issue of punitive damages should not have been submitted to the jury. In the case of Inland Container Corp. v. March, 529 S.W.2d 43, (Tenn. 1975), our Supreme Court held

Punitive damages are allowed under Tennessee law and are given in excess of compensatory damages and in addition thereto. They are awarded in cases involving fraud, malice, gross negligence or oppression, or where a wrongful act is done with bad motive or so recklessly as to imply a disregard of social obligation, or where there is such willful misconduct or entire want of care as to raise a presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.

The appellee argues that two circumstances justify the imposition of punitive damages: (1) the failure of the hospital staff to search Rich after he was allowed to return to his automobile, and (2) failing to provide medical attention after Rich could not be awakened at 10:00 P.M.

We are of the opinion that these circumstances are wholly insufficient to justify punitive damages. While the failure to awaken Rich, standing alone and without regard to the attendant circumstances, might logically be described as a disregard of duty, see: Suzore v. Rutherford, 351 S.W.2d 129 (1952), we cannot ascribe a conscious indifference or wanton spirit to acts that cannot be elevated to a greater degree of wrongdoing than ordinary negligence. This issue has merit, and the judgment will accordingly be modified to disallow punitive damages.

VII

Appellant insists that the award of compensatory damages of $650,000.00 is excessive and should be reduced.

Rich was 39 years old, a college graduate and a professional claims agent for the Southern Railway Company. His salary in 1984 was $34,767.00. His statutory worklife expectancy was 26 years. With no allowance for salary increases he could reasonably have expected to earn mare than the amount of the award, assuming his retirement at age 65. As observed by the appellee, the award is less than projected lost wages. The damages recoverable are the pecuniary value of Rich's life, T.C.A. 20-5-113, determined b evidence of life expectancy, his age and condition of health, capacity for labor and earning money, and life style. Bellamy v. Saddler, 640 S.W.2d 22 (Ct. App. 1982). We cannot find that the evidence does not support the award, and this issue is without merit.

The judgment, as modified, is affirmed, costs are assessed two-thirds to appellant and one-third to the appellee.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
\"Allah does not love the public utterance of hurtful speech, unless it be by one to whom injustice has been done; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing\" - The Qur\'an

_______________________________________________
A PV counselor\'s description of his job:

\"I\'m there to handle kids that are psychotic, suicidal, homicidal, or have commited felonies. Oh yeah, I am also there to take them down when they are rowdy so the nurse can give them the booty juice.\"