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Pitt-Hart v. Sanford USD Med. Ctr.

Supreme Court of South Dakota

April 13, 2016

BARRY THOMAS PITT-HART, MD, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
SANFORD USD MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant and Appellee

         Considered on Briefs March 21, 2016.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA. THE HONORABLE DOUGLAS E. HOFFMAN, Judge.

         N. DEAN NASSER, JR., JAMES M. NASSER of Nasser Law Offices, PC, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellant.

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

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

          OPINION

         GILBERTSON, Chief Justice

          [¶1] Barry Thomas Pitt-Hart appeals the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to defendant Sanford USD Medical Center. Pitt-Hart argues that he commenced his action within the three-year statute of limitations applicable to general-negligence actions and that the court erred by determining his action was time barred. He also argues that even if a shorter statute of limitations applies, it should have been tolled. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

          [¶2] On November 10, 2009, Pitt-Hart underwent a knee-replacement surgery at Sanford. The day after surgery, while Pitt-Hart was still hospitalized at Sanford, he asked for assistance to get out of bed and travel to and from the restroom adjoining his hospital room. Mark Nygard, a patient-care technician employed by Sanford, assisted Pitt-Hart. While Nygard attempted to help Pitt-Hart return to his bed, Pitt-Hart fell. Pitt-Hart was discharged on November 13, 2009.

          [¶3] After being discharged, Pitt-Hart began inpatient rehabilitation at Avera Prince of Peace in Sioux Falls. Following that, Pitt-Hart underwent outpatient physical therapy at Prairie Rehabilitation until February 1, 2010. Neither Avera Prince of Peace nor Prairie Rehabilitation is affiliated with Sanford. In June 2010, Sanford agreed to provide outpatient physical therapy to Pitt-Hart at no charge because Medicare would not cover additional treatments at Prairie Rehabilitation. Pitt-Hart's outpatient therapy with Sanford concluded on September 14, 2010.

          [¶4] Two years later, in September 2012, Pitt-Hart sought additional physical therapy for what he asserts were the continuing effects of the injury resulting from his fall. Sanford declined to pay for additional treatment, and Pitt-Hart commenced this action on September 14, 2012, by delivering a summons and complaint to the Minnehaha County Sheriff for service on Sanford. Sanford answered the complaint on October 5, 2012. Sanford later filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that Pitt-Hart's action was time barred under SDCL 15-2-14.1[1] as a medical-malpractice claim. The circuit court agreed and granted Sanford's motion for summary judgment.

          [¶5] Pitt-Hart appeals, raising the following issue: Whether Pitt-Hart's action was time barred by SDCL 15-2-14.1.

         Standard of Review

          [¶6] " In reviewing a grant or a denial of summary judgment under SDCL 15-6-56(c), we must determine whether the moving party demonstrated the absence of any genuine issue of material fact and showed entitlement to judgment on the merits as a matter of law." Gades v. Meyer Modernizing Co., 2015 S.D. 42');">2015 S.D. 42, ¶ 7, 865 N.W.2d 155, 157-58 (quoting Peters v. Great W. Bank, Inc., 2015 S.D. 4, ¶ 5, 859 N.W.2d 618, 621). " We view the evidence 'most favorably to the nonmoving party and resolve reasonable doubts ...


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