This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Jacob Merrill, by and through his next of friend
and natural legal guardian, Heather Kelly,
Stefan P. Guttormsson, MD,
Northland OB/GYN PA,
St. Luke’s Hospital of Duluth,
Filed August 7, 2007
St. Louis County District Court
File No. 69-C8-02-601240
Richard E. Bosse, Law Offices of Richard E. Bosse Chartered, 303 Douglas Avenue, P.O. Box 315, Henning, MN 56551 (for appellant)
Charles B. Bateman, Tracy A. Schramm, Reyelts Leighton Bateman Hylden & Sturdevant, Ltd., 332 West Superior Street, Suite 700, Duluth, MN 55802-1801 (for respondent Stefan P. Guttormsson)
David C. Hutchinson, Mark W. Hardy, Carolin Nearing, Geraghty, O’Loughlin & Kenney, P.A., 386 North Wabasha Street, Suite 1400, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent St. Luke’s Hospital)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Jacob Merrill, by and through his mother Heather Kelly, challenges the district court’s decision to deny appellant’s motion to amend the complaint by adding new claims. Appellant argues that the appropriate standard of review is de novo, or in the alternative, that the district court abused its discretion when it denied the motion on the grounds that (1) appellant failed to produce evidence supporting the proposed claim; (2) the amendment would lead to inflammatory and unfairly prejudicial evidence; and (3) the proposed claims would not withstand a motion for summary judgment. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
Heather Kelly gave birth to appellant Jacob Merrill on March 8, 1993. During labor, Kelly experienced a period of distress during which appellant’s fetal heart rate dropped below 70 beats per minute for approximately 12 minutes. Appellant has cerebral palsy and mental retardation, which appellant alleges result from the period during labor that appellant’s heart rate dropped below the normal range. Appellant brought suit in March 2002 against the attending physician, respondent Guttormsson, and the hospital, respondent St. Luke’s Hospital, alleging medical negligence.
Twenty-three months later, after receiving a nurse’s employment record during the course of discovery that indicated the nurse was chemically dependent, appellant sought to amend the complaint to add claims of negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention of the nurse. After a hearing, the district court denied the motion.
The medical negligence claim
proceeded to trial and the jury returned a special verdict for respondents,
finding no negligence. Appellant made no
posttrial motions, but brought a seven-issue appeal to this court. A special-term panel dismissed five of the
claims as improperly raised in the absence of a motion for a new trial. The panel deferred the decision as to whether
this court has proper jurisdiction over a sixth issue, but appellant did not
brief the issue and it is deemed waived.
Melina v. Chapman, 327 N.W.2d
19, 20 (
A district court has broad
discretion when deciding whether to grant leave to amend a complaint, and its
ruling will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion. Fabio
v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (
If a party attempts to amend the
complaint after significant discovery has occurred, the district court may
consider whether the amendment states a claim on which relief may be granted
and whether sufficient evidence exists to support the amendment. Pischke
v. Kellen, 384 N.W.2d 201, 204 (
Because the district court here
considered whether sufficient evidence existed to support the proposed claims,
appellant claims that the district court effectively granted summary judgment
on the claims in favor of respondents and therefore the proper standard of review
is de novo. We disagree because
Appellant also argues that the
district court abused its discretion by refusing to allow amendment of the
complaint based on the court’s determination that appellant failed to present
evidence supporting the claim. Specifically,
the district court based its refusal on the lack of any evidence that the nurse
was under the influence of drugs or alcohol on March 8, 1993. Appellant admits that he has no evidence that
the nurse was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during appellant’s mother’s
labor and delivery, but argues that discovery was curtailed. But appellant did not raise this issue below
and generally, we do not consider issues raised for the first time on
appeal. Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (
Without evidence indicating that the nurse was intoxicated on March 8, 1993, the district court concluded that appellant had not provided evidence establishing a causal link between the hospital’s allegedly negligent hiring, retention, or supervision and appellant’s injuries. The court further concluded that general evidence of the nurse’s drug use would be inflammatory, irrelevant, and inadmissible. Finally the court determined that even if it allowed the amendment, the claim would be resolved immediately by a grant of summary judgment in favor of respondents.
We have upheld district court
decisions denying a motion to amend where an appellant failed to make a showing
of causation. In Stead-Bowers, the plaintiff moved the court to amend a complaint to
add a claim of defamation. 636 N.W.2d at
338. In affirming the district court, we
upheld the district court’s decision that the plaintiff-appellant “d[id] not
present any evidence showing how the statements harmed her reputation.”
Appellant also argues that the
district court abused its discretion by deciding that the evidence regarding
the nurse’s general use of drugs and alcohol would be inadmissible as
inflammatory and substantially more prejudicial than probative. “The admission of evidence rests within the
broad discretion of the [district] court and its ruling will not be disturbed
unless it is based on an erroneous view of the law or constitutes an abuse of
discretion.” Kronig v. State Farm Auto. Ins. Co., 567 N.W.2d 42, 45 (
Here, the evidence that appellant sought to admit may be relevant, but the district court determined that the prejudice of showing that the nurse was generally using drugs or alcohol during the time period that appellant was born substantially outweighed its probative value. Absent any evidence that the nurse was under the influence of drugs while providing care to appellant’s mother, evidence regarding the nurse’s general drug use is of limited probative value. On this record we cannot conclude that the district court abused its discretion by determining that the evidence was inadmissible.
Appellant further argues that the district court abused its discretion by denying his motion to amend based on the district court’s determination that the requested claims would not withstand a summary judgment motion. Appellant asserts that “[w]ithout providing the Plaintiffs with notice and opportunity to develop their evidence, the Court has arbitrarily precluded the Plaintiffs’ cause of action without a hearing.” We disagree. The district court did not make a summary judgment determination. Rather, the court properly determined that a claim that will not withstand summary judgment is properly precluded from a post-response, post-discovery complaint amendment, see Piscke, 384 N.W.2d at 204. We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s motion to amend.