Sulton v. HealthSouth

Vernon Sulton was rendered paraplegic by gunshot wounds he received as a bystander at an armed robbery. After initial treatment at Richland Memorial Hospital, he was transferred to the HealthSouth Rehab Hospital in Columbia. He was admitted with a sacral stage two pressure ulcer. In the eleven days Sulton remained at HealthSouth, the pressure ulcer progressed from stage two to stage four. Sulton underwent a colostomy and surgery that included a skin graft, and the pressure ulcer eventually fully healed. Sulton and his wife, Willie Mae Scott (Scott), sued HealthSouth and several of its nurses, alleging that Sulton had been injured by the defendants’ negligent provision of nursing care. Scott alleged a cause of action for loss of consortium. Sulton died of unrelated causes prior to trial. In the survival action, a jury found against all defendants and awarded $306,693.25 in economic damages but no non-economic damages. In the loss of consortium action, the jury found HealthSouth alone liable to Scott for four million dollars in non-economic damages. The jury also found that HealthSouth had been willful, wanton, or reckless. In the punitive damages phase of the bifurcated proceedings, the jury awarded eight million dollars in punitive damages. HealthSouth moved for JNOV, new trial absolute, and new trial nisi remittitur. These motions were denied. HealthSouth and the individual named nurse defendants challenged the jury’s verdict in a negligence and loss of consortium action. Because the trial court improperly instructed the jury that Appellants owed Respondents a heightened duty of care, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial on all issues as to all Appellants. View "Sulton v. HealthSouth" on Justia Law