Etowah County

(5) SIERRA SEWELL vs. GADSDEN REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, DALENE MCCULLOUGH, R.N., and SHERRY GRIFFIN, R.N. (Circuit Court of Etowah County, Alabama)

County/Docket #/Judge: Etowah / CV-2014-901051 / William B. Ogletree

Plaintiff(s) Attorney(s): Stephen D. Heninger of Heninger, Garrison, et al., LLC, Birmingham, AL

Defendant(s) Attorney(s): Stanley A. Cash, Philip R. Collins, and Margaret H. Jones of Huie, Fernambucq, et al., LLP, Birmingham, AL

Age/Sex/Occupation Of Plaintiff: n/a / F / n/a

Cause Of Injury: Negligence/Slander/Nurse Reporting Mother’s False Positive Drug Screen to County. On Aug. 4, 2014, plaintiff Sierra Sewell was admitted to Gadsden Regional Medical Center for an induction and delivery of her full-term baby. Her son was delivered on Aug. 5, 2014, at 4:59 a.m. weighing 8 pounds 7 ounces. A routine urinalysis performed on plaintiff prior to the delivery had come back positive for opioid use. Plaintiff’s physician suspected that the result was a false positive, as plaintiff had had a prior false positive result, and instructed a straight catheter collection of urine. The subsequent test result was negative, which result was issued and charted nine hours before the birth. A urine drug screen on the infant also came back negative. At around 2:00 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2014, nurse Dalene McCullough, R.N., notified the Etowah County Department of Human Resources (DHR) that plaintiff had tested positive for opiates and methamphetamines. A DHR social worker continued to make home visits after plaintiff’s discharge from the hospital.

Plaintiff filed a complaint against Gadsden Regional Medical Center, McCullough, and Sherry Griffin, R.N., asserting claims of negligence, wantonness, outrageous conduct, slander, and negligent training and supervision. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on Sept. 17, 2016, claiming that McCullough’s call to DHR reporting plaintiff’s positive drug screen was statutorily protected from civil or criminal liability under Ala. Code Section 26-14-9 and that plaintiff had provided no expert testimony that the nurses breached the applicable standard of care.

Nature Of Injury: Damage to reputation; emotional and mental anguish.

Expert Witnesses: n/a

Judgment: For Defendants on Feb. 10, 2017 (granting summary judgment).