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Tort/Negligence – Medical Malpractice – Discovery – Requests for Admission – Publication to Jury – First Impression

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//August 16, 2023//

Tort/Negligence – Medical Malpractice – Discovery – Requests for Admission – Publication to Jury – First Impression

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//August 16, 2023//

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Although it is usually the party who made the request to admit that seeks to publish a request to admit to the jury, our Rules of Civil Procedure allow the publication to the jury of requests to admit. Accordingly, plaintiff was properly allowed to publish to the jury defendant’s requests that plaintiff admit the amount in controversy exceeded $100,000.

We affirm judgment for the plaintiff-Minor in the amount of $300,000 (reduced pursuant to the Tort Claims Act from the jury award of $1,127,280) and for the plaintiff-Mother in the amount of $135,477.

The defendant-hospital contends the purpose of its requests to admit was to obtain an independent medical examination, not for Mother to represent that the hospital admitted the damages exceeded $100,000. The hospital maintains that allowing the requests to admit to be published caused the jury to believe it had to award a verdict of at least $100,000. The hospital argues this effectively directed a verdict of liability in Mother’s favor, thereby impeding presentation of the merits of its case. We disagree.

Case law is limited on this issue, as most of the law speaks to conflicts over publishing to the jury requests to admit responses. Here, the dispute is over publishing the actual request. However, based on the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, publishing requests to admit is proper.

Rule 403, SCRE, does not apply to the publication of a request to admit.

Moreover, in addition to the hospital’s requests to admit that the damages, amount in controversy, or value were over $100,000, a request to admit “the value of the amount in controversy in this action is less than [$100,000]” was also published to the jury. The trial court also instructed the jury to evaluate the evidence and if it decided any damages were warranted, it was to determine the amount. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in allowing the requests to admit to be published to the jury.

Other Issues

Although Minor was only four months old when a hospital nurse put an antibiotic into his IV, apparently without first flushing the IV to be sure it was going into a blood vessel and not into surrounding tissue, the trial court properly allowed plaintiffs’ nurse expert to testify about the proper procedure for administering antibiotics intravenously, despite her lack of pediatric experience. The hospital’s concerns with the expert not having experience in pediatric IVs, as opposed to general IV knowledge, went to the weight of the evidence and not the witness’s qualification as an expert.

The jury was allowed to see Minor’s healed hand at trial. Nevertheless, photographs of his hand, showing the third-degree burn caused by the antibiotic spreading into the issue of his hand, were relevant to show what the injury was like for Minor and to corroborate testimony concerning the extent of the injury. The hospital provides no support for its argument that the jury could consider the injury in only its current state and not when it occurred or was still healing. Further, the danger of unfair prejudice does not substantially outweigh the probative value.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by preventing the hospital from asking its expert explicitly if the hospital committed negligence or gross negligence. Asking the medical expert that question would have been asking her to form a legal conclusion, which would have been inadmissible. The fact that she is a nurse and not a lawyer or other legal expert does not make a difference; her answer could confuse the jury particularly because negligence could have a broader meaning outside of the legal definition.

The trial court did not abuse its direction in denying the hospital’s motion for a new trial absolute or a new trial nisi remittitur. The record contains evidence to support the damages award. The verdict does not shock the conscience or clearly indicate it was reached as the result of passion, caprice, prejudice, partiality, corruption or other improper motives. Additionally, the verdict was not excessive. Moreover, the trial court substantially reduced the damages awarded for Minor pursuant to the Tort Claims Act.


Hamilton v. Regional Medical Center (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-055-23, 21 pp.) (Aphrodite Konduros, J.) Appealed from Orangeburg County Circuit Court (Edgar Dickson, J.) Michael Tanner and Morgan Rebekkah Long for appellant; Jonathan Krell, David Reynolds Williams, Virginia Watson Williams and Kathleen Chewning Barnes for respondent. South Carolina Court of Appeals

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