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Laplante v. Rhode Island Hospital

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

February 25, 2015

Joseph Laplante et al.
Rhode Island Hospital et al

Providence County Superior Court. (PC 06-1114). Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter.

Joseph Laplante, Plaintiff, Pro se.

For Defendants: George E. Wakeman, Jr., Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ. Justice Goldberg did not participate.


Page 262

 Robinson, Justice

The plaintiff, Joseph Laplante,[1] appeals pro se from the Providence County Superior Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants, Rhode Island Hospital, Lifespan, Inc., Frantz J. Gibbs, M.D., and Michael P. Bradley, M.D.[2] This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After a close review of the record and careful consideration of the parties' arguments, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown and that this appeal may be decided at this time. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.


Facts and Travel

On February 23, 2006, Joseph Laplante filed a pro se complaint in Superior Court against defendants, advancing therein claims of medical malpractice and negligence, inter alia.[3] According to the complaint, the underlying events that gave rise to Mr. Laplante's claims began three years earlier, in February of 2003, when Mr. Laplante was injured in a car accident. He alleged that, following the accident, he was transported from the scene by ambulance to Rhode Island Hospital (the Hospital) and admitted to the trauma unit.

The thrust of Mr. Laplante's allegations concern his stay at the Hospital following the accident. Mr. Laplante alleged that, in February of 2003, while at the Hospital, he was " deprived of many treatments * * * and was discharged early because of lack of insurance." Mr. Laplante further claimed that he was readmitted to the Hospital in March of 2003, only a few weeks after his initial stay, and was thereafter diagnosed with a fractured pelvis.

Page 263

Accordingly, Mr. Laplante asserted that defendants were negligent in light of their purported failure to diagnose his fractured pelvis during his initial stay at the Hospital and that their negligence was the cause of his deficient treatment and premature discharge.

In March of 2006, defendants answered Mr. Laplante's complaint; and, in due course, the parties embarked on a lengthy period of discovery. From the Superior Court record, it is clear that Mr. Laplante, then represented by counsel, failed to comply with several of defendants' discovery requests and subsequently failed to comply with Superior Court orders compelling such compliance. Relevant to this appeal, on at least three occasions, Mr. Laplante failed to specifically identify his expert witness following defendants' request for that information, in spite of numerous scheduling orders from the hearing justice requiring that particular disclosure.[4]

Following the issuance of a third scheduling order by the hearing justice in December of 2010 and Mr. Laplante's subsequent failure to identify his expert witness by the deadline set out therein, defendants moved for a conditional dismissal of Mr. Laplante's claim on the grounds that he had failed to disclose his expert witness in accordance with the above-referenced scheduling order. The hearing justice granted the motion for conditional dismissal and required that Mr. Laplante disclose his expert witness by February 21, 2011 as a precondition to vacating the dismissal order. When Mr. Laplante again failed to make such disclosure, defendants moved for an entry of final judgment.

The defendants allege that, during the subsequent hearing on defendants' motion for entry of final judgment, Mr. Laplante indicated that he planned to pursue his case based upon the theory of res ipsa loquitur. In spite of this contention regarding Mr. Laplante's theory of the case, after hearing arguments from the parties on defendants' motion, the hearing justice issued an order barring Mr. Laplante from " engaging the services of an expert witness or witnesses to offer testimony at trial, whether through deposition or live testimony." The hearing justice added that defendants would be ...

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