Savino v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority

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Opinion Filed September 25, 2020
Attorney for the Case Kent Brown Jon Moore
Amicus Brief Writers Burton Craige Narendra Ghosh Trisha S. Pande
Court NC Supreme Court
Docket No. 18PA19

In Savino v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, a wrongful death action, the jury found the hospital liable for medical and administrative negligence and awarded $5,500,000 in non-economic damages. The Court of Appeals overturned the verdict on administrative negligence and vacated the award of non-economic damages. NCAJ submitted an amicus brief in support of plaintiff’s successful petition for discretionary review. In the Supreme Court, NCAJ’s amicus brief addressed two issues.

Departing from modern standards for notice pleading and liberal amendments of pleadings, the Court of Appeals incorrectly held that omissions in the complaint precluded trial on plaintiff’s theory of administrative negligence. Because the parties engaged in extensive discovery concerning the hospital’s administrative duties and then agreed to a pretrial order that explicitly included administrative negligence, the trial court correctly denied defendant’s JNOV motion on that issue.
In setting aside the award of non-economic damages, the Court of Appeals impermissibly usurped the jury’s fact-finding role when it re-weighed conflicting medical expert testimony and found plaintiff’s evidence to be insufficient. If it stands, the Court of Appeals’ decision will give courts unfettered license to act as factfinders, effectively nullifying the role of the jury.

Furthermore, by holding that medical expert opinion is insufficient evidence of pre-death pain, the Court of Appeals’ opinion precludes plaintiffs from recovering damages in wrongful death actions where direct evidence of pain is unavailable.
Plaintiff’s medical expert testimony on the reasonable probability of pain is sufficient to support an award of damages. The trial court correctly denied defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on pain and suffering.