ZOFIA GRZEGORZEWSKA, p.p.a. MATTHEW VIEIRA
WOMEN & INFANTS HOSPITAL OF RHODE ISLAND; A.W.C.R.I. MEDICAL GROUP, INC. D/B/A WOMEN'S CARE; MICHAEL ECONOMOS, M.D.; JOHN AND/OR JANE DOE, M.D.; JOHN and JANE DOE, R.N.; AND JOHN DOE CORPORATION
Providence County Superior Court
For Plaintiff: Amato A. DeLuca, Esq.
For Defendant: Cassandra A. DeAngelis, Esq.; Angela L. Carr, Esq.; Katherine M. Willis, Esq.
Before the Court are Defendants Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island's (Women & Infant), A.W.C.R.I. Medical Group, Inc.'s (A.W.C.R.I.), and Dr. Michael Economos, M.D.'s (Dr. Economos) (collectively Defendants) Motions for Summary Judgment. Defendants have each moved that summary judgment be granted in their favor. They claim that because Plaintiff Matthew Vieira (Matthew), a handicapped child, failed to bring a medical malpractice action prior this third birthday, he is now foreclosed from instituting suit.
I Facts and Travel
The underlying action was filed by Zofia Grzegorzewska (Ms. Grzegorzewska) on behalf of her minor son Matthew (collectively Plaintiffs). (Compl. ¶ 1.) Ms. Grzegorzewska presented to Women & Infants on the night of December 18, 2005, complaining of decreased fetal movement, and she was admitted for induction of labor. Id. ¶¶ 7, 8. For the duration of her time at Women & Infants, Ms. Grzegorzewska was under the care of Dr. Economos who delivered Matthew on December 19, 2005 via caesarean section. Id. ¶¶ 9, 10. Matthew weighed 4035 grams at birth and his APGAR scores were zero at one minute, zero at five minutes, and one at ten minutes. Id. ¶ 11. An endotracheal tube was inserted to maintain Matthew's airway, and chest compressions were started due to lack of a fetal heart rate. Id. On December 26, 2005, Matthew was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and on January 2, 2006, an MRI showed he had a severe brain injury consisting of diffuse signal abnormality in the basal ganglia, thalamus, and supratentorial white matter and evolving global tissue loss. It was determined that this was consistent with the sequelae of profound hypoxic ischemic injury. Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.
The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants failed to timely order a caesarean section during Ms. Grzegorzewska's labor and, as a result, Matthew suffered neurological injuries at birth. Matthew's current doctor provided an affidavit, explaining that Matthew suffers from a "severe brain injury . . . [which] is consistent with the sequel of profound hypoxic ischemic injury." (Dr. Krishnamoorthy Aff., Oct. 16, 2013.) Matthew's doctor also attested that he is severely injured and suffers from numerous physical and developmental delays, which require constant care and attention; furthermore, his doctor attested that his injuries and condition are permanent. Id.
Ms. Grzegorzewska brought suit on behalf of Matthew in 2012, alleging negligence and lack of informed consent against the various Defendants. The Defendants made a joint motion for summary judgment arguing that under G.L. 1956 § 9-1-14.1, suit had to be brought on or before December 19, 2008, i.e., within three years of Matthew's birth.
II Standard of Review
When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the trial justice must keep in mind that it '"is a drastic remedy and should be cautiously applied."' Steinberg v. State, 427 A.2d 338, 339-40 (R.I. 1981) (quoting Ardente v. Horan, 117 R.I. 254, 366 A.2d 162, 164 (1976)). Thus, '[s]ummary judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the [C]ourt determines that there are no issues of material fact in dispute, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Quest Diagnostics, LLC v. Pinnacle Consortium of Higher Educ., 93 A.3d 949, 951 (R.I. 2014). However, only when the facts reliably and undisputably point to a single permissible inference can this process be treated as a matter of law. Steinberg, 427 A.2d at 340.
The party who opposes the motion for summary judgment "carries the burden of proving by competent evidence the existence of a disputed material issue of fact and cannot rest on allegations or denials in the pleadings or on conclusions or legal opinions." Accent Store Design, Inc. v. Marathon House, Inc., 674 A.2d 1223, 1225 (R.I. 1996); see also McAdam v. Grzelczyk, 911 A.2d 255, 259 (R.I. 2006). The summary judgment stage is "the put up or shut up moment in litigation." Jakobiec v. Merrill Lynch Life Ins. Co., 711 F.3d 217, 226 (1st Cir. 2013) (internal citation omitted).