The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Settle v. Basinger, M.D. on Thursday, February 28, 2013.
Emergency Room Physician’s Vicarious Liability—Negligent Supervision—Captain of the Ship Doctrine—Negligent Credentialing—Impeachment Evidence.
Plaintiffs William P. and Corinna Settle appealed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Janet Basinger, MD, and Rio Grande Citizens Foundation for Health Care, Inc. (Rio Grande Hospital). The judgment was affirmed.
After sustaining injuries from an ATV accident, William Settle was transported by ambulance to the Rio Grande Hospital emergency room, where Dr. Basinger was on duty. Dr. Basinger inserted a chest tube to remove air from Settle’s chest cavity before having him transported to Swedish Medical Center in Denver (Swedish). Swedish arranged for Air Life, an organization independent from the hospitals, to transport him. While Dr. Basinger was placing the chest tube, the Air Life nurses and another physician made two unsuccessful attempts to intubate Settle and then inserted a “Combitube” to stabilize him. At Swedish, lacerations to Settle’s posterior trachea and anterior and posterior esophagus caused by the Combivent tube were discovered, which later required multiple surgeries to repair.
Plaintiffs contended that the trial court erred when it denied their motion to amend the complaint to add claims against Dr. Basinger for vicarious liability and negligent supervision of the Air Life nurses. Plaintiffs alleged no facts, however, on which the court could have concluded that Dr. Basinger owed them a duty to supervise the Air Life nurses when they attempted the intubation. Additionally, the captain of the ship doctrine only applies to the authority of a surgeon in an operating room. It does not render an emergency room physician such as Dr. Basinger vicariously liable for negligent acts committed in the emergency room by non-hospital employees. Accordingly, the trial court did not err when it (1) denied plaintiffs’ motion to amend the complaint to add claims against Dr. Basinger for vicarious liability and negligent supervision of the Air Life nurses; (2) granted summary judgment in favor of Dr. Basinger on plaintiffs’ claim that Dr. Basinger failed to supervise the medical care that gave rise to Settles injuries; and (3) granted summary judgment in favor of Rio Grande Hospital on the negligent credentialing claim.
Plaintiffs further contended that the court erred when it limited cross-examination of Dr. Basinger and her expert witness and excluded other impeachment evidence. The trial court’s exclusion of the evidence was not manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair, and there was no prejudicial error. Consequently, the court did not abuse its discretion when it granted the pretrial motions to exclude such testimony and evidence.
Plaintiffs also contended that the court erred when it did not allow them to “inquire into the fact” that another of defendants’ expert witnesses had been found guilty of unprofessional conduct, in violation of the Colorado Medical Practice Act. Defendants’ expert witness was a physician who had been convicted of driving while intoxicated and later was disciplined by the Board of Medical Examiners. However, testimony about the witness’s addiction to alcohol or narcotics was not admissible for any proper purpose in this matter.
Finally, the court did not err when it excluded portions of a witness’s deposition to remove references to insurance, excluded evidence of a letter from plaintiffs’ counsel to the witness saying it was permissible for her to meet with defense counsel, and allowed defense counsel to vouch for the credibility of a defense witness. The judgment was affirmed.
Summary and full case available here.