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Gores v. Miller

Supreme Court of South Dakota

February 3, 2016

DAWN GORES, individually and as conservator of HALEY GORES, and HALEY GORES individually, Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
LISA A. MILLER, M.D., and YANKTON SURGICAL ASSOCIATES, P.C., Defendants and Appellees

Considered on Briefs November 30, 2015.

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL CIRCUIT YANKTON COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA. THE HONORABLE CHERYLE W. GERING, Judge.

TIMOTHY L. JAMES of James & Larson Law, Yankton, South Dakota and DAN RASMUS of Hovland & Rasmus, PLLC, Edina, Minnesota, Attorneys for plaintiffs and appellants.

MELISSA C. HINTON of Evans Haigh & Hinton LLP, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendants and appellees.

ZINTER, Justice. GILBERTSON, Chief Justice, and SEVERSON, WILBUR, and KERN, Justices, concur.

OPINION

Page 35

ZINTER, Justice

[¶1] A minor child sustained physical injuries in an auto accident. The minor and her parent--conservator signed a general release in exchange for a settlement with the driver, insured, and insurer of the auto. The release did not specifically name the treating physician or clinic, but it released all other claims that might develop from the accident. The minor and her parent subsequently filed a malpractice suit against the clinic and the physician who treated the injuries the minor sustained in the accident. The circuit court ruled that the release discharged the malpractice claims, and the court granted summary judgment in favor of the medical providers. The parent and minor appeal. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] On July 28, 2010, fifteen-year-old Haley Gores was a passenger in a van driven by Steven Smith. Smith lost control of the van, and Haley suffered lacerations

Page 36

to her right arm. Dr. Lisa Miller debrided Haley's wounds at the hospital. The next day, Dr. Miller performed an excisional debridement and closed the lacerations. On August 13, Dr. Miller performed a second excisional debridement. Haley continued to see Dr. Miller for her care until October 21, 2010, when Dr. Miller determined that Haley's arm had completely healed. Haley's last contact with Dr. Miller was in December 2010.

[¶3] In March 2011, a court appointed Haley's mother, Dawn Gores, as Haley's conservator for the purpose of prosecuting and settling claims arising from the accident. In April 2011, Dawn asked the conservator court to approve a settlement with Smith's insurer for the policy limit of $25,000 in exchange for Dawn and Haley's general release.[1] The conservator court approved the settlement, and Dawn and Haley (Appellants) executed the release.[2]

[¶4] In April 2013, Haley and Dawn (in her individual capacity and as Haley's conservator) sued Dr. Miller and Yankton Surgical Associates (YSA), Dr. Miller's practice group. Appellants claimed that Haley received substandard medical care for the arm injury Haley suffered in the auto accident. More specifically, they alleged that Haley would have healed faster and required less treatment if ...


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