UPHAUS v. CHARTER HOSP. OF MOBILE 2900092, 2900092-X.
582 So.2d 1140 (1991)
Annise UPHAUS v. CHARTER HOSPITAL OF MOBILE and Pamela Brewer, M.D.
Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama.
May 17, 1991.
Mack B. Binion and Donna L. Ward of Briskman & Binion, Mobile, for appellant/cross-appellee Annise Uphaus.
Reggie Copeland, Jr. and Charles L. Miller, Jr. of Lyons, Pipes & Cook, Mobile, for appellee/cross appellant Charter Hosp. of Mobile, Inc.
Andrew P. Campbell of Shawn, Hill, Crook, Birmingham, for counter-defendant-appellee Pamela Brewer, M.D.
Charter Hospital of Mobile (Charter) filed suit against Annise Uphaus (Uphaus) to collect unpaid hospital charges totalling $19,068.20, allegedly due from Uphaus on an open account. Uphaus denied the charges and counterclaimed against Charter for, inter alia, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. She also filed against Dr. Pamela Brewer, by an impleader. The trial court granted summary judgment against Uphaus and entered a judgment on a jury verdict in favor of Charter for $6,824.50 plus costs. Both parties appeal.
Our review of the entire record reveals facts pertinent to this appeal. Uphaus voluntarily admitted herself to Charter in June 1988, under the care of Dr. Brewer, for treatment of severe depression. Dr. Brewer had previously treated Uphaus during a prior admission to another hospital for the same problem. On the present admission, there was evidence of suicidal tendencies in Uphaus in the form of thoughts and feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and emptiness.
Sometime during August 1988, Uphaus expressed a desire to be released from Charter. Dr. Brewer advised Uphaus that she could be released if she contracted with Dr. Brewer relating to suicide, follow-up treatment, and medication. Uphaus refused to enter the contract with Dr. Brewer, but said she would enter such a contract with her psychologist, Dr. Faye Pierce. Uphaus believed that her relationship with Dr. Brewer was destructive and anti-therapeutic, and sought a change in doctors. Sometime thereafter, she began to question the need for further treatment and contended that being in the hospital was imposing a financial burden upon her. Dr. Pierce advised Uphaus that if she left the hospital "against medical advice," she might have difficulty receiving treatment in the future.
Due to Uphaus's suicidal ideation, Dr. Brewer sought legal counsel as to the feasibility and advisability of an involuntary commitment. Thereafter, on September 15, 1988, involuntary commitment proceedings were initiated by Charter. Due to the failure of Charter to establish the occurrence of a recent overt act in accordance with Ala.Code 1975, § 22-52-10, the action was dismissed at the hearing held September 16, 1988. Thereafter, pursuant to negotiations between the parties and their counsel, an oral agreement was reached to discharge Uphaus without including the words "against medical advice" written on her records, in exchange for a release of Charter and Dr. Brewer of some liability. Thereafter, Uphaus was discharged; however, Uphaus refused to sign the proffered written agreement releasing Charter and Dr. Brewer of all civil liability.
Subsequent to the filing of the complaint and counterclaim, on February 12 and 13, 1990, the trial court granted Charter's and Dr. Brewer's motions for summary judgment on all claims asserted by Uphaus in her counterclaims. Charter's collection claim against Uphaus was tried before a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of Charter and against Uphaus in the amount of $6,824.50 plus costs.
Thereafter, on March 23, 1990, upon consideration of additional evidence, the trial court modified its prior summary judgment order to once again grant summary judgment in favor of Dr. Brewer with respect to all claims asserted by Uphaus. Still further, on April 20, 1990, the trial court vacated the orders of February 12 and 13, 1990, and modified the March 23, 1990, order to grant summary judgment to both Charter and Dr. Brewer.
Uphaus contends, persuasively, that in situations where multiple claims and parties are present, the trial court's determinations of some of those claims are not appealable until all claims are finally adjudicated. Bowman v. Integrity Credit Corp.,
The time for appeal could not begin until the judgment was a final appealable judgment. Accordingly, the appeal time began on the date of the denial of Charter's post-judgment motion, i.e., on March 28, 1990. Uphaus's notice of appeal was filed April 26, 1990, well within the forty-two days prescribed in the rules.
Next we consider Uphaus's contentions that summary judgment was improper on her claims against Charter and Dr. Brewer. The law regarding summary judgment is well established. Rule 56, A.R.Civ.P. provides that summary judgment is proper when the trial court determines that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Further, the party moving for summary judgment has the burden of negating the existence of a material fact. Rule 56, A.R.Civ.P.; Melton v. Perry County Board of Education,
Uphaus contends that Charter falsely imprisoned her. False imprisonment consists of the unlawful detention of a person for any length of time whereby one is deprived of one's personal liberty. Ala.Code 1975, § 6-5-170. In bringing this action, Uphaus has the burden of proving that the defendants held or confined her against her will.
Our review of the record reveals the following undisputed facts which are pertinent to the false imprisonment charge. Uphaus voluntarily admitted herself to Charter under the care of Dr. Brewer for therapy and treatment for severe depression. At some point, prior to a planned release, Uphaus began discussing the terms of her release with Dr. Brewer. Uphaus was agreeable to some, but not all, of the terms: (1) She did not want to be treated further by Dr. Brewer, but her efforts to find another physician were not successful; (2) she expressed financial concerns about continued hospitalization; and (3) she did not want the words "against medical advice" placed in her medical records, which she had previously been advised would be done if she left the hospital without the doctor's consent. Charter is not a locked or secure facility. Uphaus, who never demanded release nor sought to leave, was not restrained in any way by either defendant.
Uphaus did not present evidence to controvert these facts and there is simply no evidence in the record to support Uphaus's
Next we consider the issues of malicious prosecution and abuse of process. Actions for malicious prosecution are not favored in the law, and, hence, face stringent limitations. Evans v. Alabama Professional Health Consultants, Inc.,
In the charges of malicious prosecution and abuse of process, the plaintiff must prove malice and lack of probable cause. Tapscott v. Fowler,
Uphaus's suggestion that the defense, with advice of counsel, is not available because there was no full and fair disclosure of all material facts and circumstances in this case, is without merit. The record clearly shows that the defendants provided the attorney with the detailed and specific relevant facts. The commitment proceedings, which were instituted on the advice of counsel, were initiated to protect Uphaus. This is especially true in view of counsel's testimony that regardless of the facts and circumstances, he preferred to err in favor of the mental health of Uphaus after having fully advised both defendants of the consequences of bringing such an action. In view of the above undisputed facts and the applicable law, the summary judgment of the trial court was proper.
We now turn to Charter's issue on cross-appeal regarding the trial court's ruling on a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and to set aside the verdict as being inconsistent and contrary to the evidence presented. We begin with the principle that under Alabama law jury verdicts are presumed correct. Merrill v. Badgett,
Charter additionally alleges in its brief that it was erroneous for the detention issue to be considered by the jury in determining the amount owed to Charter by Uphaus. The record reveals that Uphaus testified as to her desire and her efforts to leave the hospital and discontinue services. More importantly, at the conclusion of the trial of the case, the court instructed the jury that Uphaus was liable for all necessary and reasonable hospital expenses incurred during her stay at Charter; "with this condition, [Uphaus] would not be liable
Upon concluding the instructions to the jury, the court questioned the parties, "All right. What says the plaintiff?" Mr. Miller, the attorney for plaintiff/Charter, responded, "Your Honor. No exceptions." Mr. Browning, the attorney for defendant/Uphaus responded, "No exceptions." No exception having been taken to the court's instruction to the jury as to its duty, Charter is now precluded from arguing this on appeal. Rule 51, A.R.Civ.P.
Based on the foregoing, this case is in all respects due to be affirmed.
ROBERTSON, P.J., and RUSSELL, J., concur.
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