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Wodohodsky v. Hall

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

March 7, 2019

JESSICA WODOHODSKY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JERRY HALL and DAVID HALL, Defendants, [1] and DAVID GOURLEY, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HOWELL COUNTY Honorable Harvey S. Allen, Special Judge

          WILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., P.J.

         David Gourley ("Dr. Gourley") appeals the judgment of the trial court following a jury verdict rendered in favor of Jessica Wodohodsky ("Wodohodsky"), a veterinarian student, for injuries and damages she sustained while giving vaccinations to cattle. In three points, Dr. Gourley asserts the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because Wodohodsky failed to make a submissible case on her negligent supervision claim against Dr. Gourley under section 340.222[2] and 20 C.S.R. 2270-4.060(2); failed to make a submissible case on her negligent supervision claim against Dr. Gourley under common law tort; and failed to make a submissible case on her negligent supervision claim against Dr. Gourley in that Wodohodsky failed to offer any expert testimony establishing the applicable standard of care used by members of Dr. Gourley's profession and whether Dr. Gourley breached that standard. Finding no merit to Dr. Gourley's points, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Dr. Gourley is a veterinarian and has an ownership interest in the Whetstone Veterinary Service, LLC ("the Clinic"). His practice is predominantly for large animals. He has been on the Board of Veterinary Medicine since 2005. In addition, Dr. Gourley was an approved veterinary student supervisor through the University of Missouri's ("University") External Food Animal and Theriogenology Teach program ("EFAST").[3] Dr. Gourley had supervised a number of University students in the past through that program.

         Dr. Gourley was a longtime friend of David Hall ("David").[4] David and his brother Jerry (collectively the "Halls"), owned and operated a cattle production business known as "Ozark Hills Genetics."

         In early April 2009, David called Dr. Gourley inquiring whether Dr. Gourley currently had any veterinary students at the Clinic who would like to help vaccinate cattle on the Halls' farms. At that time, Dr. Gourley did not have any students working at the Clinic, so he called Dr. Loren Shultz ("Dr. Shultz") at the University advising that there was an opportunity at the Halls' farms for some students to gain experience outside the classroom.

         Wodohodsky and Josh Schaeffer ("Schaeffer"), another fourth-year University veterinarian student, both volunteered.

         On April 13, 2009, Wodohodsky and Schaeffer met Dr. Gourley at the Clinic, collected the vaccinations and supplies needed, and traveled to the Halls' farm. Dr. Gourley supervised the cattle processing that day, including vaccinations and pregnancy checks. Also present was Jeff Gall ("Gall"), a relatively new ranch manager of the Halls, with whom Dr. Gourley had worked previously. On that day, only one calf was allowed in the cattle chute at a time, and each calf was properly restrained. At the end of the day, Wodohodsky returned to the Clinic and remained there overnight. The Clinic provided meals and temporary student lodging in their facility.

         The next day, Dr. Gourley gave Wodohodsky and Schaeffer a cooler of vaccines to be delivered to the Halls and used that day for cattle vaccinations at a second farm owned by the Halls. Wodohodsky understood that Dr. Gourley would meet them at the farm to supervise as he had the day before. When Wodohodsky arrived at the Halls' second farm, she learned that Gall would be handling that day's vaccination operation instead of Dr. Gourley. Gall was not a veterinarian, and was not authorized to supervise University students.

         Upon arriving at the Halls' second farm, Wodohodsky observed that the scene was loud and chaotic-the bulls, heifers and calves were not separated. Wodohodsky and Schaeffer were each handed a vaccine gun and instructed to begin inoculating the calves as they ran through the "alleyway." Wodohodsky was concerned for her safety. She requested that the process be done the same way as the day before-with only one calf at a time restrained in the chute. Gall became angry, fearing that this would slow down the process. Wodohodsky's concern was dismissed, and the following procedure was used instead: two calves were "crammed" in the chute, with the first calf restrained in the head catch, and the second calf unrestrained with no squeeze applied.[5]

         As Wodohodsky went to vaccinate the calf restrained in the head catch, the unrestrained calf jumped up and crushed her hand against the chute. After a short rest, Wodohodsky resumed her duties. Dr. Gourley later arrived at the farm and Wodohodsky assisted him with pregnancy checks.

         Within a few days, Wodohodsky sought medical treatment for her right hand. She obtained an x-ray, which was inconclusive. Wodohodsky was ultimately diagnosed with a trapezium fracture, and development of complex regional pain syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome. Wodohodsky also underwent placement of a spinal cord stimulator. A Life Care Plan was developed for Wodohodsky setting forth the medical treatment she was expected to need in the future, and the costs associated therewith.

         On May 5, 2015, Wodohodsky filed a two-count petition for damages as a result of her injury. The petition asserted, in relevant part, that Dr. Gourley had a statutory duty to follow the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board Minimum Standards, 20 C.S.R. 2270-4.060 (2007), [6] which required him to directly supervise Wodohodsky during the vaccination process on the Hall farms; a common law duty to ensure the process was reasonably safe and to ensure Wodohodsky was not exposed to unreasonable risk of harm; and that Dr. Gourley breached those duties.

         A jury trial commenced on June 23, 2017. At trial, Dr. Gourley admitted that he had a duty to supervise veterinary students, and to ensure a safe working environment for them.

         After the close of Wodohodsky's evidence, Dr. Gourley made an oral motion for directed verdict. Dr. Gourley's counsel argued that Dr. Gourley did not owe a duty to supervise Wodohodsky because the statute and regulation did not apply to the activity that Wodohodsky was performing at the time of her injury, and that the statute and regulation were only intended to protect the public and not veterinarians or veterinary students. Dr. Gourley also argued that Missouri law requires expert testimony to establish a breach of any allegedly applicable standard of care in claims against professionals, and that Wodohodsky had produced no such expert testimony. The motion was overruled.

         At the close of all the evidence, Dr. Gourley once again made an oral motion for directed verdict, renewing ...


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