Court splits 5-4 on wrongful death ruling

Staff Writer

A judge's ruling to dismiss part of a wrongful death lawsuit over a Clay County women's death was narrowly upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

On Nov. 3, 2015, Clay County Circuit Court Judge Jim Kitchens granted a partial dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Christopher Pollan over the Jan. 18, 2011 death of his mother, 57-year-old Shirley Pollan who had been a long-time bank teller in the region.

North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point, Dr. Andrew Wartak, and nurses Angie Turnage, William Larmour and Ashley Davis asked the court to dismiss at least parts of the lawsuit based on the statute of limitations.

Pollan claimed the hospital, a doctor and three nurses failed to properly treat his mother Oct. 8, 2008, when she was taken to the hospital suffering from dizziness, vomiting and an inability to stand. She was treated for low sodium levels and became comatose and was transferred to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo at her son's insistence. She was later released from Tupelo and although she recovered many of her abilities, could never return to work and continued to have health problems.

After her death, an autopsy confirmed she suffered from a brain injury caused when sodium levels in the blood are increased too rapidly,

Her son filed the lawsuit in Clay County Circuit Court on Jan. 10, 2013.

North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point, Dr. Wartak, Turnage, Larmour and Davis argued Pollan and his mother were aware of the possible cause of her health problems long before her death and thus the two-year window to file the suit ran out prior to Jan. 10, 2013.

In his ruling, Kitchens agreed, saying the clock began to run on Aug. 24, 2010 when she filled out a medical form for a Memphis specialist that said she thought her problems were related to the sodium treatments more than two years earlier.

Christopher Pollan appealed Kitchen's ruling, which effectively ended his case. Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a split 5-4 decision supporting Kitchens' ruling. The five judges approving his decision signed a 16-page opinion while four others offered a six-page dissent.

Seldom does the Supreme Court split 5-4. The dissenters said the Pollan family had no way of knowing for certain the cause of Shirley Pollan's death until it actually occurred and an autopsy was done. Despite the fact she had suspicions, two specialists told her during treatment that her illness was not was was known as CPM, so forcing them to file suit earlier than the date of her death was incorrect.