Legal Memorandum: Evidence of Negligence in NV

Issue: Under Nevada law, will the showing of a violation of a hospital policy serve as evidence of negligence?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Evidence of negligence; Jury instruction; Violation of a hospital policy
Jurisdiction: Nevada
Cited Cases: 706 P.2d 1383; 766 P.2d 1322
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2014

In Wickliffe v. Sunrise Hospital, Inc., 766 P.2d 1322 (Nev. 1989), the Nevada Supreme Court held that the trial court committed reversible error in refusing to give a jury instruction requested by the plaintiff that would have permitted the jury to consider whether the hospital conformed to its own standards in caring for a patient after surgery.  In the Wickliffe case, a mother sued the hospital for the wrongful death of her teenage daughter, who suffered respiratory arrest while recovering from an otherwise uneventful surgical procedure at the defendant hospital.  Sunrise’s postoperative procedures required the taking of a patient’s vital signs every fifteen minutes for the first hour after surgery, but this procedure was not followed in Wickliffe’s daughter’s case; her vitals were checked only once during the relevant time period. 

At the first trial of the matter,*FN1 the district court gave the following instruction to the jury: “In determining the adequacy of the care rendered to its patient, you may consider the defendant’s own standards and whether or not the defendant conformed to its own standards.”  Id. at 1325.  The jury returned a verdict for Sunrise, and the plaintiff appealed.  The appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial.  At the second trial, the court refused the very same instruction when proffered by the plaintiff.  Wickliffe again appealed, arguing that the omitted instruction was fundamental to her argument that the violation of Sunrise’s procedures could be evidence […]

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