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Dakin v. Springboro Pediatrics Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

July 1, 2013

CRAIG DAKIN, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF GRACIE LYNN DAKIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SPRINGBORO PEDIATRICS, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

CIVIL APPEAL FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 11CV79143

Richard B. Reiling, for for plaintiff-appellant

Lindhorst & Dreidame Co., LPA, Michael F. Lyon, for defendants-appellees, Springboro Pediatrics and Charles Hutchison, M.D.

S. POWELL, J.

{¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Craig Dakin, Administrator of the Estate of Gracie Lynn Dakin, appeals from a decision of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas granting summary judgment in favor of defendants-appellees, Springboro Pediatrics, Inc. and Charles Hutchison, M.D. In appealing this decision, appellant argues the trial court erred in denying his Motion to Continue Trial and Leave to Name Additional Expert Witnesses.

{¶ 2} This case arises out of the tragic death of Gracie Lynn Dakin (Dakin). Dakin was seen in Dr. Charles Hutchison's office on February 28, 2008 complaining of flu-like symptoms. Two days later, she died. Her cause of death was "acute suppurative streptococcal bronchopneumonia" (pneumonia). Appellant is the father of Dakin. On February 9, 2011, appellant, in his representative capacity as administrator of Dakin's estate, filed a wrongful death medical malpractice suit against several defendants including Dr. Hutchison and his employer, Springboro Pediatrics, Inc. (Springboro Pediatrics).[1] In the complaint, appellant alleged Dakin would have survived if she had been properly diagnosed and treated by Dr. Hutchison. Attached to the complaint was an affidavit of merit by Dr. Mark T. Hash.

{¶ 3} On June 13, 2011, the trial court issued a scheduling order, setting a trial for November 5, 2012. The scheduling order also set discovery deadlines for the parties' expert witnesses. Pursuant to the order, appellant was required to identify his expert witnesses by July 11, 2011 and provide his experts' reports to the opposing parties by August 12, 2011.

{¶ 4} On July 12, 2011, Appellant moved for additional time to disclose "supplemental" expert witnesses. The trial court granted this motion, extending the deadline for appellant to identify his expert witnesses to August 3, 2011. Appellant failed to identify any other experts beside Dr. Hash. Springboro Pediatrics and Dr. Hutchison disclosed their expert witnesses in accordance with the court's scheduling order.

{¶ 5} Approximately one month before trial, on October 4, 2012, appellant filed a Motion to Continue Trial and Leave to Name Additional Expert Witnesses. In this motion, appellant explained that Dr. Hash was deposed in December 2011, and during the deposition, Dr. Hash testified that he was unable to say how long the pneumonia was present in Dakin's system or whether the pneumonia could have been detected by a chest x-ray on the day of Dr. Hutchison's examination. As a result of this testimony, appellant conceded that he was unable to prove his claim. Specifically, appellant was unable to provide evidence to establish that a deviation from the appropriate standard of care was the direct and proximate cause of Dakin's death. Appellant further stated that "after months of searching [appellant] believes that he has located an expert that will opine to a reasonable degree of certainty that the pneumonia was present (and detectable) at the time of Dr. Hutchison's examination." Accordingly, "in the interests of justice" appellant requested the trial court continue the trial so he could "present testimony as to causation." Dr. Hutchison and Springboro Pediatrics objected to the motion.

{¶ 6} On October 12, 2012, the trial court denied appellant's motion and granted leave to Springboro Pediatrics and Hutchison to file a motion for summary judgment. Springboro Pediatrics and Dr. Hutchison filed a motion for summary judgment, and on October 24, 2012, the trial court granted the motion as appellant was unable to present any evidence on causation. It is from that judgment appellant appeals, setting forth one assignment of error.

{¶ 7} Assignment of Error No. 1:

{¶ 8} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY DENYING APPELLANT'S REQUEST FOR LEAVE TO NAME AN ADDITIONAL EXPERT AND TO CONTINUE TRIAL.

{¶ 9} Appellant asserts in his sole assignment of error that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his request to continue trial and name an additional expert. He asserts that the trial court's decision to deny his motion necessarily required the trial court to grant Dr. Hutchison and Springboro Pediatrics' motion for summary judgment as he freely admitted that without this additional expert's testimony he would be unable to prove his case. Appellant argues the trial court should have granted his motion because the trial had not previously been continued and Dr. Hutchison and Springboro Pediatrics were unable to show they would be prejudiced by the continuance.

{¶ 10} The decision to grant or deny a continuance is entrusted to the sound discretion of the trial court. Black v. Black, 12th Dist. No. CA2008-06-022, 2009-Ohio-92, ¶ 11, citing State v. Unger, 67 Ohio St.2d 65, 67 (1981). Likewise, decisions related to discovery are also committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Silver v. Jewish Home of Cincinnati, 190 Ohio App.3d 549, 2010-Ohio-5314, ΒΆ 21 (12th Dist.). Accordingly, we review the trial court's decision for an abuse of discretion. An abuse of discretion is more than an error of law or judgment; ...


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