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Parrillo v. Rhode Island Hospital

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

March 14, 2019

Dawn M. Parrillo, Administratrix of the Estate of Daniel Santos
v.
Rhode Island Hospital et al.

          Providence County Superior Court (PC 14-91) Associate Justice Maureen B. Keough

          For Plaintiff: Brian R. Cunha, Esq.

          For Defendant: Robert P. Landau, Esq.

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

          OPINION

          FLAHERTY JUSTICE

         The plaintiff in this wrongful death action, Dawn M. Parrillo, Administratrix of the Estate of Daniel Santos (Parrillo or plaintiff), appeals from the entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, Shea Gregg, M.D. A justice of the Superior Court dismissed the action against Dr. Gregg because the statutory period for filing a wrongful death action had expired. After thoroughly reviewing the record and after carefully considering the arguments of the parties, we affirm the entry of summary judgment.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         In the early hours of Friday, February 17, 2012, Daniel Santos was returning home from an event celebrating his boss's birthday when he lost control of his vehicle and collided with a utility pole. Mr. Santos was transported to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was admitted to the Trauma Intensive Care Unit with multiple injuries, including six fractured ribs and other injuries to his right knee and right foot. Over the next three days, Santos's condition stabilized, and he even showed some signs of improvement. That improvement caused the medical staff to move Mr. Santos to the medical floor for further monitoring and treatment. There, he expressed his eagerness to go home.

         Optimism proved to be fleeting, however, and Mr. Santos's condition soon took a drastic turn for the worse. On February 21, Mr. Santos developed chest pain, and x-rays revealed that excess fluid had accumulated around his left lung. Mr. Santos was quickly transferred back to the Trauma Intensive Care Unit, where a chest tube was inserted and antibiotics were administered. That evening Mr. Santos suffered two cardiac arrests, but he regained vital signs after two minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). He was then sedated in an effort to improve oxygenation and ventilation. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Santos's condition continued to deteriorate. On the morning of February 22, his family made the difficult decision to withdraw treatment. Mr. Santos was pronounced dead later that morning.

         On May 17, 2012, Dawn Parrillo, Mr. Santos's domestic partner and the administratrix of his estate, requested his medical records from Rhode Island Hospital because she believed that the records might reveal evidence of negligent treatment.[1] The hospital delivered those records three months later, on August 23, 2012.

         On January 9, 2014, nearly two years after Mr. Santos died and nearly a year and a half after she received his medical records, Parrillo filed a complaint against the hospital, as well as Charles Adams, M.D. and Whitney Young, M.D., two physicians who had been involved in Mr. Santos's care, alleging negligent treatment leading to the wrongful death of Mr. Santos.[2] Parrillo filed a first amended complaint on February 20, 2014, which was nearly identical to the original complaint, except that it omitted the allegations against Dr. Young.

         In February 2015, three years after Mr. Santos's death, Parrillo first propounded requests for production of documents and interrogatories upon both Rhode Island Hospital and Dr. Adams. Relevant to this appeal, the interrogatories to Rhode Island Hospital requested that the hospital provide the name, address, and a description of "each and every person known to you to have treated the Plaintiff [sic] while inpatient at the Rhode Island Hospital from the time of his admission through to the time of his death on February 22, 2012." The hospital responded with a boilerplate objection that the interrogatory sought privileged information and that it was "ambiguous, overly broad and unduly burdensome." Nevertheless, the hospital stated further that "[w]ithout waiving this objection, Plaintiff is referred to the medical records[.]"

         In November 2015, Parrillo propounded additional interrogatories upon Rhode Island Hospital, asking the hospital to "identify by name(s), address(es) and date(s) of care and treatment of all physicians, including the attending physicians responsible for the medical treatment and care rendered to Mr. Santos from the date of his admission to the Rhode Island Hospital on February 17, 2012, through February 22, 2012." The hospital also objected to this interrogatory, again claiming that it was "overly broad, irrelevant and burdensome[, ]" but again, without waiving that objection, referred Parrillo to Mr. Santos's "Rhode Island Hospital chart." Parrillo did not file a motion to compel more responsive answers.

         Nevertheless, Rhode Island Hospital agreed to provide the names of the attending physicians during Mr. Santos's hospital stay, and, on February 3, 2016, the hospital sent Parrillo's attorney an email identifying, for the first time, Dr. Gregg as the attending physician in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit on February 20, 2012.[3] Armed with this information, on April 1, 2016, Parrillo moved for leave to amend her complaint a second time. That motion was granted on May 9, 2016. The second amended complaint added several new defendants, including Dr. Gregg.

         Dr. Gregg filed a motion for summary judgment on May 23, 2016, claiming that the statute of limitations for wrongful death had expired before he had been added as a defendant. The Superior Court agreed, the motion was granted, and judgment was entered soon thereafter in favor of Dr. Gregg. Parrillo timely appealed.

         II

         Standard of Review

         This Court reviews a decision granting summary judgment de novo. DeLong v. Rhode Island Sports Center, Inc., 182 A.3d 1129, 1134 (R.I. 2018). In doing so, we "[e]xamin[e] the case from the vantage point of the trial justice who passed on the motion for summary judgment" and "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party[.]" Sullo v. Greenberg, 68 A.3d 404, 406 (R.I. 2013) (quoting Sacco v. Cranston School Department, 53 A.3d 147, 150 (R.I. 2012)). "Summary judgment is appropriate only when the 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled ...


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