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Brewer v. Hunter

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

September 2, 2014

JEROME BREWER, SABRINA BREWER, and MATTHEW J. BREWER, by and through his Guardian Ad Litem, Timothy T. Leach, Plaintiffs
v.
WILLIAM D. HUNTER, M.D., NEUROSCIENCE & SPINE CENTER OF THE CAROLINAS, P.A., and NEUROSCIENCE & SPINE CENTER OF THE CAROLINAS, L.L.P., Defendants

Heard in the Court of Appeals May 8, 2014

Editorial Note:

This Decision is not final until expiration of the twenty-one day rehearing period. [North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure 32(b)]

Law Office of Thomas D. Bumgardner, PLLC, by Thomas D. BumgardnerMr., and The Eisen Law Firm Co., L.P.A., by Brian N. EisenMr., pro hac vice, for plaintiffs-appellees.

Lincoln Derr, PLLC, by Sara R. LincolnMr. and Scott S. AddisonMr., for defendants-appellants.

Judges HUNTER, JR. and ERVIN concur.

OPINION

Appeal by defendants from order entered 15 August 2013 by Judge F. Donald Bridges in Gaston County. No. 11-CVS-1437 Superior Court.

DAVIS, Judge.

William D. Hunter, M.D. (" Dr. Hunter" ), Neuroscience & Spine Center of the Carolinas, P.A., and Neuroscience & Spine Center of the Carolinas, L.L.P. (collectively " Defendants" ) appeal fro an order granting in part the motion of Jerome Brewer, Sabrina Brewer, Matthew Brewer, and Timothy T. Leach, the guardian ad litem of Matthew Brewer, (collectively " Plaintiffs" ) to compel discovery in this medical malpractice action. On appeal, Defendants contend that the trial court erred in requiring them to produce various medical records regarding certain former patients of Dr. Hunter who are not parties to this lawsuit. After careful review, we conclude that the trial court's order should be affirmed.

Factual Background

In 1998, Jerome Brewer (" Mr. Brewer" ) underwent thoracic spinal surgery for treatment of spinal stenosis, back pain, and bilateral leg weakness. In 2007, Mr. Brewer was seen by his primary care physician for treatment of back pain and leg weakness, symptoms similar to those that led to his surgery in 1998.

On 28 January 2008, Mr. Brewer was referred to Dr. Hunter, who was employed by Neuroscience & Spine Center of the Carolinas, P.A. and Neuroscience & Spine Center of the Carolinas, L.L.P., after an MRI scan revealed diffuse degenerative disease in Mr. Brewer's lumbar area and severe canal stenosis. On 19 March 2008, Dr. Hunter diagnosed Mr. Brewer as suffering from severe spinal stenosis and recommended a thoracic laminectomy. Mr. Brewer consented to the surgery, which was performed by Dr. Hunter on 10 April 2008.

Upon awakening from surgery, Mr. Brewer discovered that he was unable to move his lower extremities and had no sensation below his thighs. An MRI scan revealed that he had suffered a severe spinal cord infarction during surgery. Subsequent MRI scans revealed that Mr. Brewer continued to suffer from severe myelomalacia. To date, Mr. Brewer remains permanently confined to a wheelchair, continues to undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation, and requires assistance with daily tasks, including managing his bowel and bladder functions.

On 31 August 2012, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint [1] in Gaston County Superior Court against Defendants, alleging medical negligence, loss of consortium, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiffs subsequently served a set of written discovery requests on Defendants which sought, inter alia, " all documents . . . showing Dr. Hunter's complications and complication rate for thoracic laminectomies during 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 (up to and including April 10, 2008)" and " all documents . . . showing Dr. Hunter's case volume for thoracic laminectomies during 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 (up to and including April 10, 2008)." In response, Defendants produced a copy of a letter from Gaston Memorial Hospital identifying 14 thoracic laminectomies performed by Dr. Hunter at the hospital between May of 2005 and October of 2011 (including the operation performed on Mr. Brewer) and stating that those surgeries " were performed with no issues noted[.]"

On 21 September 2012, Dr. Hunter was deposed. During his deposition, Dr. Hunter testified that he had personally created a list of 44 instances, including patient names and dates of surgery, in which he had performed thoracic laminectomies. Plaintiffs subsequently requested the production of this document, and a copy of the document -- with the names of the patients redacted -- was provided to Plaintiffs' counsel.

On 25 October 2012, Plaintiffs filed a second set of written discovery requests in which they sought, among other things, " the operative notes and discharge summaries for all surgeries performed by Dr. Hunter and as identified on the document created by Dr. Hunter prior to his deposition and attached as Exhibit A to this Request[.]" Plaintiffs attached to this request the redacted document that had been produced by Defendants following Dr. Hunter's ...


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