United States District Court, D. New Mexico
AIMEE BEVAN, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Desiree Gonzales, deceased, Plaintiff,
GABRIEL VALENCIA, Youth Development Administrator, Individually, MATTHEW EDMUNDS, Corrections Officer, Individually, JOHN ORTEGA, Corrections Officer, Individually, MOLLY ARCHULETA, Corrections Nurse, Individually, ST. VINCENT HOSPITAL, and NATHAN PAUL UNKEFER, M.D., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter comes before the Court upon St. Vincent Hospital's
Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support (Motion
for Summary Judgment), filed February 12, 2016. (Doc. 132).
Plaintiff filed a response on March 8, 2016, and Defendant
St. Vincent Hospital (Hospital) filed a reply on March 25,
2016. (Docs. 142 and 151). Having considered the Motion for
Summary Judgment, the accompanying briefing, and relevant
evidence, the Court grants the Motion for Summary Judgment.
case involves, in part, whether the Hospital was negligent on
May 7, 2014, in prematurely discharging Desiree Gonzales
after Defendant Dr. Nathan Paul Unkefer treated her for a
heroin overdose with both naloxone and Ativan. Upon discharge
from the Hospital and having been medically cleared by Dr.
Unkefer for incarceration, police took Gonzales from the
Hospital to the Santa Fe Youth Development Program (YDP) for
incarceration. It is undisputed that no nurse was present at
the YDP that night and that several hours later Gonzales
stopped breathing. It is also undisputed that when Gonzales
stopped breathing and became nonresponsive non-medical YDP
staff began CPR and called 911. Several hours later, Gonzales
died at the Hospital. The Office of the Medical Investigator
determined that the cause of death was “Toxic effects
of heroin.” (Doc. 145-4) at 1.
Count Four of the Complaint for Wrongful Death (Complaint)
brings negligence claims against the Hospital in Count Four
of the Complaint. Plaintiff clarifies in her response to the
Motion for Summary Judgment that she alleges the Hospital was
negligent by (1) not having a policy related to the treatment
of heroin overdose patients, (2) failing to have adequate
discharge instructions, and (3) not obtaining informed
consent from Gonzales to administer Ativan, a drug that
“can potentiate any narcotic that is still in the
body.” (Doc. 142) at 9-12 (quoting (Doc. 142-4) at 2,
depo. at 78). Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages against
Hospital moves for summary judgment only on Plaintiff's
direct negligence claims, including the claim for punitive
damages. The Hospital does not move for summary judgment on
any vicarious liability claims. Plaintiff opposes the Motion
for Summary Judgment in its entirety.
Facts Relevant to the Motion for Summary
Failure to Have a Hospital Policy on Treating Heroin Overdose
In his written expert report, Dr. Robert Henry opined that
Dr. Unkefer's and St. Vincent Hospital's care was
below the standard of care when Desiree Gonzales was
discharged after monitoring her condition for an inadequate
amount of time given Ms. Gonzales' condition, her
symptoms and the treatment provided to her in the hospital. A
longer observation period was required and would have
prevented her death.
(Doc. 132) at 22. Dr. Henry further opined that the
St. Vincent Hospital failed in its obligation to provide
appropriate policies and procedures. According to testimony
and the records that I have received, St. Vincent Hospital
did not have a policy on the observation period of
post-naloxone patients. Had St. Vincent had a reasonable
policy, it is likely that Ms. Gonzales would have been kept
in the hospital longer and her condition would have been
treated before it caused her death.
Id. at 22-23.
deposition, Dr. Henry clarified that he had only one opinion
regarding the Hospital: the Hospital was negligent by not
having a policy on the treatment of heroin overdose patients.
(Doc. 132) at 27, depo. at 128-29. Dr. Henry testified that
the Hospital breached “the standard of care of a
reasonably well-qualified hospital” by not having such
a policy. Id. at 29, depo. at 133. Dr. Henry,
however, explained that it is speculation to suggest that a
Hospital policy would result in keeping an heroin overdose
patient in the Hospital longer because a doctor can exercise
“his own independent medical judgment” to
discharge the patient. Id. at 28, depo. at 130. Dr.
Henry further testified that it was speculation on his part
to opine that such a policy would have “likely”
kept Gonzales at the Hospital ...