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Rodgers v. The Medical Center of Southeast Texas

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

November 16, 2017

LONNIE D. RODGERS SR., Appellant
v.
THE MEDICAL CENTER OF SOUTHEAST TEXAS, Appellee

          Submitted on September 11, 2017

         On Appeal from the 60th District Court Jefferson County, Texas Trial Cause No. B-193, 734

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Horton and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HOLLIS HORTON JUSTICE

         Seeking to overturn a jury's decision rejecting his claim that a nurse negligently injured his sciatic nerve by giving him an injection in his left hip, Lonnie D. Rodgers Sr. appeals from a take-nothing judgment, which the trial court rendered in favor of The Medical Center of Southeast Texas (The Medical Center). We conclude the evidence authorized the jury to reject Rodgers' allegation that a nurse, employed by The Medical Center, gave Rodgers an injection in his left hip; therefore, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         On October 29, 2010, Rodgers sought treatment for a painful headache at an emergency room operated by The Medical Center. The emergency room doctor prescribed an injection of pain medicine. Subsequently, a nurse employed by The Medical Center (the nurse) gave Rodgers a shot that contained the medication that had been prescribed by the emergency room doctor.

         One of the many disputed issues in the trial concerned whether the nurse gave Rodgers the injection in his right hip or in his left hip. Rodgers testified in his trial that the nurse gave him the injection in his left hip. Additionally, in their testimony, Rodgers' expert witnesses relied on Rodgers' account that the nurse gave Rodgers the injection in a muscle located on the back side of his left hip. According to Rodgers' experts, the nurse should have given Rodgers the injection in a muscle that lies more on the upper left or upper right side of the hip to avoid injuring his sciatic nerve.

         Rodgers also claimed that the injection caused immediate pain in his left leg. He testified that when he got the injection, it felt like "a[n] electric bolt" going down his left leg all the way to his toes. During the trial, Rodgers testified that he still has pain in his low back and left leg, which causes him to limp. He attributed his ongoing symptoms to the treatment that he received at the emergency room in October 2010, and the injection he was given by the nurse. Rodgers explained that eventually he saw a neurologist, who began treating him for the symptoms he was having in his low back and left leg. Rodgers testified that tests performed by the neurologist showed he had a sciatic nerve injury, and that the injury was causing pain in his lower back and left leg.

         The accuracy of Rodgers' account of where on his body the nurse gave him the injection and his account regarding when his left leg symptoms started were disputed by other witnesses who testified in Rodgers' trial. The nurse who gave Rodgers the injection at the emergency room also testified in the trial. According to the nurse, he gave Rodgers the injection in the right upper quadrant of his right hip. Medical records that were created when Rodgers was treated were introduced during the trial. The medical records from The Medical Center show that the nurse wrote in Rodgers' records that he gave Rodgers the injection that was at issue in the "RDG." According to the nurse, "RDG" stands for the "[r]ight dorsal glute[, ]" which is a muscle located in the rear part of a person's hip. A typed notation in The Medical Center's electronic medical records, created by the nurse in the course of charting the treatment Rodgers received in the emergency room, also references "RDG" as the injection site. The expert witnesses who were asked during the trial agreed that an injection of pain medication in the right hip would not cause a sciatic nerve injury in a patient's left leg.

         Testimony before the jury also contradicted Rodgers' claim that he had an adverse reaction to the shot while he was in the emergency room. According to the nurse, Rodgers was observed approximately thirty minutes in the emergency room to make sure that he did not have an adverse reaction to the injection. According to the nurse, Rodgers did not have an adverse reaction, and the medical records of Rodgers' October 2010 emergency room visit are consistent with the nurse's testimony.

         In his petition, Rodgers alleged that The Medical Center and its nurse negligently injured his sciatic nerve by injecting pain medicine into his left hip. The jury, the entity asked to resolve the discrepancies that existed in the testimony that was introduced during Rodgers' trial, refused to find that The Medical Center[1] was negligent. The jury also refused to find that The Medical Center's nurse had caused Rodgers' alleged injury. In a broad-form charge, the jury was asked: "Did the negligence, if any, of The Medical Center of Southeast Texas proximately cause Lonnie D. Ro[d]gers, Sr.['s] injury?" The jury answered the issue "No." Relying on this finding, the trial court rendered a take-nothing judgment in The Medical Center's favor.

         Burden of Proof and Standard of Review

         By its verdict, the jury determined that Rodgers failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that The Medical Center was negligent and that The Medical Center caused Rodgers' alleged sciatic nerve injury. In proving a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must prove (1) that the medical provider was under a duty to conform to a certain standard of care, (2) that the provider failed to conform to that required standard, (3) that the plaintiff was actually injured by the provider based on the provider's deviation from the standard of care that applies to the medical provider, and (4) that a causal connection exists between the medical provider's conduct and the plaintiff's injury. See Methodist Hosp. v. German, 369 S.W.3d 333, 338 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2011, pet. denied). With respect to causation, the plaintiff must prove, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that the medical provider caused the plaintiff's alleged injury. Park Place Hosp. v. Estate of Milo,909 S.W.2d 508, 511 (Tex. 1995); Duff v. Yelin,751 S.W.2d 175, 176 (Tex. 1988). Proving causation requires proof that ...


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