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McFarren v. Emeritus at Canton

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Stark

April 20, 2018

WANDA L. MCFARREN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX FOR THE ESTATE OF ANGELINE B. RINKER, DECEASED Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
EMERITUS AT CANTON, ET AL Defendants-Appellees

          Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Case No.2012CV02236

          For Plaintiff-Appellant LEE E. PLAKAS MEGAN J. FRANTZ OLDHAM COLLIN S. WISE

          For Defendants-Appellees KEITH HANSBROUGH

          JUDGES: Hon. John W. Wise, P.J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.

          OPINION

          Wise, E. J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-Appellant Wanda L. McFarren, individually and as Administratrix for the Estate of Angeline B. Rinker, deceased, appeals the June 30, 2017 judgment entry of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas granting summary judgment to Defendants-Appellees Emeritus at Canton, et al.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶ 2} This matter returns to us following our reversal and remand pertaining to McFarren's contract claims in McFarren v. Emeritus at Canton et. al, 5th Dist. Stark No. 2015CA00052, 2016-Ohio-484, herein "McFarren I." Facts relevant to this appeal are as follow:

         {¶ 3} In July, 2010, 91-year old Angeline B. Rinker and her family sought a temporary care provider for Mrs. Rinker while Mrs. Rinker's usual caretaker was unavailable. It was decided that Mrs. Rinker should stay at The Landing of Canton for a short-term period from July 8, 2010 to July 15, 2010.

         {¶ 4} Defendant-Appellee The Landing of Canton is a licensed residential care facility which provides assisted living, memory care, and respite/short-term stay care. Defendant-Appellee Emeritus of Canton operates The Landing of Canton. For ease of discussion, The Landing of Canton and Emeritus of Canton will be referred to as "Emeritus."

         {¶ 5} On July 8, 2010, Mrs. Rinker and a family member signed a Respite/Short Term Stay Addendum to Resident Agreement with Emeritus. The Respite/Short Term Stay Addendum stated in Paragraph 4, "[p]rovided that we agree and have space available at the Community, you may extend this Respite Period by executing a new Respite Addendum or you may convert to a regular residency by executing a standard Resident Agreement."

         {¶ 6} The same day, at the request of Emeritus, Mrs. Rinker's personal physician, Dr. Thomas, completed a health assessment of Mrs. Rinker. The health assessment form asked for Mrs. Rinker's health history and physical. As to "Ambulatory Status, " Dr. Thomas wrote in "re-evaluate." Dr. Thomas checked the box for "Assist with transfer: One person." The health assessment form also asked for the "Type of Care or Services Resident Requires." Dr. Thomas wrote in "Nursing Home" for "Type." He also wrote, "Duration: Indefinite."

         {¶ 7} Mrs. Rinker's original respite stay agreement terminated on July 15, 2010, but Mrs. Rinker's family determined they needed more time. On July 14, 2010, Plaintiff-Appellant Wanda L. McFarren signed a Resident Agreement with Emeritus to convert Mrs. Rinker's short-term stay to a regular residency. Mrs. Rinker's term of residency was month-to-month.

         {¶ 8} On July 15, 2010 at approximately 6:40 p.m., a Resident Assistant found Mrs. Rinker in her room, lying on the floor beside her bed. The Resident Assistant notified Shawn Meek, the LPN on duty. A portable x-ray company was called and it was determined at 11:45 p.m. that Mrs. Rinker fractured her left hip. Mrs. Rinker was transported to Mercy Medical Center.

         {¶ 9} Mrs. Rinker stayed at Mercy Medical Center until July 21, 2010. She was then transferred to the Canton Regency. That evening, Mrs. Rinker passed away.

          {¶ 10} The death certificate certified by the Stark County Coroner stated the immediate cause of death was complications of a left hip fracture. The coroner listed the condition leading to the immediate cause of death as, "Fall."

         {¶ 11} On July 13, 2012, Plaintiff-Appellant Wanda L. McFarren, Individually and as Administratrix for the Estate of Angeline B. Rinker, Deceased, filed a complaint in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. In the complaint, she named Emeritus of Canton, Emeritus Corporation, The Landing of Canton, and others who are no longer parties to this matter, as defendants. McFarren filed an amended complaint on March 10, 2014 asserting six causes of action.

         {¶ 12} In Count One, McFarren set forth a claim for negligence. McFarren alleged the defendants were negligent in admitting and retaining Mrs. Rinker as a resident based upon the argument that Mrs. Rinker required a higher level of care than the defendants could provide.

         {¶ 13} In Count Two, McFarren claimed the defendants violated the Ohio Patients' Bill of Rights under R.C. 3721.13(A)(30).

         {¶ 14} In Counts Three and Four, McFarren argued the defendants breached the terms of the Resident Agreement and the Care Agreement.

         {¶ 15} In Count Five, McFarren claimed the defendants caused the wrongful death of Mrs. Rinker by their failure to meet the standard of care in failing to properly supervise, attend, and assist Mrs. Rinker and failing to implement fall risk interventions.

         {¶ 16} In Count Six, McFarren set forth a claim for punitive damages.

          {¶ 17} On October 27, 2014, Appellees Emeritus filed a motion for summary judgment. On the same date, McFarren filed a motion for summary judgment as to cause of death.

         {¶ 18} On March 3, 2015, the trial court granted the motion for summary judgment of Emeritus. The court further determined the claims raised by McFarren were medical claims, and therefore time-barred by the one-year statute of limitations under R.C. 2305.113. As to McFarren's wrongful death claim, the trial court found that McFarren failed to establish through expert testimony that there were genuine issues of material fact demonstrating Emeritus deviated from the standard of care and that deviation proximately caused Mrs. Rinker's fall on July 15, 2010. The court thus further found an issue challenging the cause of Mrs. Rinker's death as set forth on the certificate certified by the Stark County Coroner was moot. Finally, the trial court also denied McFarren's claim for punitive damages.

         {¶ 19} McFarren appealed to this court raising five assignments of error, specifically: 1) that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to causation because McFarren had introduced evidence to demonstrate Emeritus breached the standard of care; 2) McFarren's claims of negligence, violation of Ohio's Patient Bill of Rights, and breach of contract for personal injury were not medical claims when the negligence actors did not provide any professional skill; 3) The trial court erred in grating summary judgment on punitive damages claim when the evidence demonstrated Emeritus had knowledge Mrs. Rinker required a higher level of care than Emeritus could provide, and despite that knowledge admitted and retained Mrs. Rinker; 4) The trial court erred in finding an affidavit executed by Mrs. Rinker's grandson was hearsay because it rebutted testimony ...


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