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Aptt v. Cedarz Medical And Cosmedics, Inc.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

January 9, 2017

Stacia Aptt
Cedarz Medical and Cosmedics, Inc. et al.

         Providence County Superior Court (PD 15-3691) Richard A. Licht Associate Justice

          For Plaintiff Robert J. Ameen, Esq.

          For Defendants Kurt M. Schmidt, Jr.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.


          Gilbert V. Indeglia Associate Justice

         The defendants, Michael Y. Baaklini, M.D. (Dr. Baaklini or defendant) and Cedarz Medical and Cosmedics, Inc. (Cedarz), appeal a Superior Court trial justice's grant of a motion for new trial in favor of the plaintiff, Stacia Aptt (Aptt), following a Providence County jury verdict in favor of the defendants. This matter came before the Supreme Court on December 7, 2017, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised should not be summarily decided. After considering the arguments set forth in the parties' memoranda and at oral argument, we are convinced that cause has not been shown. Thus, further argument or briefing is not required to decide this matter. For the reasons outlined below, the Superior Court's judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to reinstate the jury's verdict.


         Facts and Travel

         The plaintiff's alleged injury arose during her visit to Dr. Baaklini on May 29, 2012. Aptt had been his patient since 2010, generally seeing him in his North Providence satellite office, although she had visited him a few times at his main office in Bristol as well. Each month, she scheduled an appointment with him to reassess her neck and back pain, for which he prescribed pain medication. Prior to May 29, she had no complaints about him.

         On that day, Aptt visited Dr. Baaklini at his North Providence office for her monthly appointment. Aptt had called to schedule an appointment for later in the week, but the receptionist informed her that Dr. Baaklini could see her that day. Aptt arrived at the scheduled time, and Dr. Baaklini led her to his office. There, she alleged that Dr. Baaklini told her, relying on the results of a blood test in her file, "I don't know what to tell you[, ] but your kidneys are gone, not one but two." At trial, Aptt testified that she had never had any problems with her kidneys, so she asked him repeatedly-"about ten times"-whether he was sure.

         She recalled that he was "kind of like getting upset with me because I kept on [asking if he was sure]. He said, blood work don't lie, blood work don't lie, that's what your blood results say * * *." He handed her tissues, because she had started crying, telling her that while she could live without one, she could not live without two kidneys. She testified that "right away * * * [she began] thinking [she was] going to die." She questioned how her kidneys could be damaged, and he attributed it to her having taken medication for an extended period of time. She responded that she thought the medication was safe, in response to which Dr. Baaklini looked at her, shrugged his shoulders, and got up with his folder. Aptt's daughter, who had accompanied Aptt to the appointment, testified that her mother was crying when she left Dr. Baaklini's office.

         Doctor Baaklini instructed Aptt to make an ultrasound appointment in a different office in the building, which he testified was not part of Cedarz, and also requested additional blood work. Still crying, Aptt made the appointment for the following morning, and the receptionist provided her with accompanying paperwork. Without reviewing them, Aptt stored the papers in the visor of her car.

         Aptt testified that she cried on the way home, having a self-described "nervous breakdown." Aptt's daughter similarly recalled that her mother would not speak in the car. Aptt remembered that her stomach was "in knots" and she "couldn't talk, " nor could she eat or sleep that night; in sum, her night "was misery."[1] The next morning, Aptt felt "a tiny bit better." She looked at the paperwork to check the time of her appointment, and she realized that it bore someone else's name. She questioned, then, whether the office gave her the wrong paperwork.

         Aptt called Cedarz's Bristol office. After giving her name, Aptt asked the receptionist to review her blood work. The receptionist obliged, concluding that all was normal. Aptt relayed what Dr. Baaklini had told her the previous day regarding her kidneys, including her belief that she was going to die, to which the receptionist laughed. Aptt hung up, and, although she was relieved, she "thought about it for days." Following her realization that Dr. Baaklini was mistaken, she "couldn't really talk." Aptt testified that neither Dr. Baaklini nor anyone ...

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