Argued September 16, 2014
Appeal from Whatcom County Superior Court 09-2-03393-1 Honorable Steven J Mura.
Kevin Keefe; and Ian S. Birk and Benjamin Blystad Gould (of Keller Rohrback LLP ), for petitioner.
D. Jeffrey Burnham (of Johnson Graffe Keay Moniz & Wick LLP ); and Mary H. Spillane and Timothy L. Ashcraft (of Williams Kastner & Gibbs ), for respondent.
Bryan P. Harnetiaux and George M. Ahrend on behalf of Washington State Association for Justice Foundation, amicus curiae.
Gregory M. Miller and Justin P. Wade on behalf of Washington State Medical Association and Washington State Hospital Association, amici curiae.
AUTHOR: Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen. WE CONCUR: Justice Charles W. Johnson, Justice Susan Owens, Justice Mary E. Fairhurst, Justice Debra L. Stephens, Justice Charles K. Wiggins, Justice Steven C. González, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Justice Mary I. Yu.
[182 Wn.2d 138] Madsen, C.J.
¶ 1 The primary issue in this medical malpractice case is whether the trial court properly granted the defendant hospital's postverdict motion for judgment as a matter of law. Here, the plaintiff patient presented expert testimony establishing that following the patient's lengthy heart surgery, the surgeons in charge of the patient's postoperative recovery failed to meet their standard of care, which required appropriately monitoring the patient for compartment syndrome, a known possible complication following such surgery, and also failed to direct members of [182 Wn.2d 139] the hospital's care team treating the patient during his recovery to so monitor. In light of this evidence, we reverse the trial court and remand for reinstatement of the jury verdict.
¶ 2 On December 21, 2006, Raymond Grove underwent a complex six hour cardiac surgery performed by Dr. Richard Leone, who remained Grove's primary physician until December 25, when Dr. Leone traveled for Christmas vacation. In Dr. Leone's absence, other surgeons at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center (PeaceHealth or hospital) assumed the role of primary physician for Grove. Dr. Edward Zech took over on December 25 and Dr. James Douglas on December 29. Dr. Leone remained Grove's physician of record until Grove was ultimately released from the hospital.
¶ 3 Although Grove's heart surgery went well, he had a difficult recovery. He developed various complications, including pneumonia and a blood infection. His condition required intubation from December 23 through December 26, and the hospital brought in an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Sara Mostad,  to treat him.
¶ 4 By December 29, Grove's progress chart noted that Grove's left calf was swollen, red, and painful to the touch. Grove's ability to bend his joints in both ankles was weak, particularly on his left leg. Based on these symptoms, Drs. Mostad and Douglas  suspected that Grove may have had cellulitis, a bacterial infection typically treated with ...