Health Law Keyed to Furrow
Muse v. Charter Hospital of Winston-Salem, Inc.
Joe Muse was a sixteen-year-old having suicidal thoughts and impulses when he was hospitalized in June 1986 for treatment related to his depression. His insurance coverage was due to expire on July 12, 1986. As that date approached, Dr. Barnhill, Joe's doctor, decided that a blood test was needed in order to determine a correct drug dosage. The blood test was scheduled for July 13. Barnhill requested that Charter Hospital of Winston-Salem, Inc. (Defendant) allow Joe to stay for a few more days and Joe's parents, the Muses (Plaintiffs), agreed to pay for the extra days. Joe was discharged on July 14 even though his blood results had not yet come back. Afterwards, Joe committed suicide on July 31. The Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant charging negligence for the policy of discharging patients when their insurance expired in spite of the medical judgment of the patient's doctors. The Plaintiffs were awarded by the jury $1 million in compensatory and $2 million in punitive damages. Defendant appealed, arguing that hospitals could not be liable for an action of this type.
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