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Endres v. Young

Court of Appeals of Kansas

April 20, 2018

Amy Endres, Individually and on Behalf of the Heirs-At-Law of Steven L. Endres, Deceased, and as the Administrator of the Estate of Steven L. Endres, Deceased, Appellants,
v.
Kimberly A. Young, RN, and Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, LLC, Appellees.

         SYLLABUS

         1. Whether a district court erred by granting a motion to dismiss is a question of law subject to our unlimited review.

         2. In reviewing a motion to dismiss, we must view the well-pleaded facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and assume as true those facts and any inferences reasonably drawn from them. If those facts and inferences state any claim upon which relief can be granted, then dismissal is improper.

         3. An appellate court will not resolve any factual disputes when deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Dismissal of a lawsuit is proper only when the allegations in the petition clearly demonstrate the plaintiff does not have a claim.

          4. If an injured employee could have recovered compensation for the injury under the Kansas Workers Compensation Act, the law commands that the employee cannot maintain an action against his or her employer or another employee for damages based on common law negligence.

          Appeal from Cowley District Court; LaDonna L. Lanning, judge. Reversed and remanded.

          Ryan A. Prochaska, Bradley J. Prochaska, and James R. Howell, of Prochaska, Howell & Prochaska LLC, of Wichita, for appellants.

          Steven C. Day and Patrick J. Murphy, of Woodard, Hernandez, Roth & Day, LLC, of Wichita, for appellees.

          Before Standridge, P.J., Hill and Buser, JJ.

          Hill, J.

         In this case, a widow appeals the dismissal of her tort claim against a company nurse and her employer for misdiagnosing her deceased husband's heart condition at work. The district court, relying upon an old case as precedent as well as offering no consideration of the intervening major revisions of the Kansas Workers Compensation Act, ruled that her lawsuit was barred by the exclusive remedy of workers compensation. The trouble with ancient precedent is that the law is never static. Each wave of legislation and each new appellate decision changes the law's seascape. What was once legally possible, in time, becomes legally impossible. Because the fundamental changes in the Kansas Workers Compensation Act cannot be ignored, we hold the precedent the district court relied upon is no longer reliable. We do not know what the future holds in store for this action but we do know it must survive a motion to dismiss. We reverse and remand.

          Steve Endres has chest pains at work followed by his death after work.

         We have gleaned the following facts from a fair reading of the petition filed in this case. As we point out later, under our civil procedure rules, they must serve as the only facts that the district court could rely upon when it considered the Defendants' joint motion to dismiss.

         Around 7:30 a.m., while he was working at Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, LLC, Steven Endres, the director of plant operations, began to experience chest pains. Over the noon hour, he sought treatment from the company nurse, Kimberly Young, RN. She noted he had mildly elevated blood pressure, a low pulse, and he was mildly dehydrated. Young diagnosed Endres with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Endres returned to his usual duties. That evening, after work, Endres went to the golf course, suffered a heart attack, and died. The emergency room doctor noted that Endres was at a cardiac standstill (asystole) the entire time he was in the emergency room. His time of death is listed as 8 p.m.

         Endres' widow, Amy Endres, on behalf of herself, the heirs, and as administrator of Steven's estate, brought a medical negligence lawsuit against both Nurse Young and Creekstone. She alleged that because of Young's deviation from the standard of care, Endres suffered loss:

"As a result of defendants' deviations from the standard of care in failing to properly treat Mr. Endres' acute coronary syndrome (ACS), including but not limited to, transferring Mr. Endres to the hospital, Mr. Endres died.
"Had Steven Endres' condition been properly assessed, diagnosed, monitored and appropriate care and treatment been provided by defendants, Steven Endres would not have endured significant avoidable pain, suffering and death. Accordingly, defendants breached their duty to Steven Endres, which breach caused or contributed to the injury and death of Steven Endres.
"After his evaluation by Kimberly Young, RN and before his death, and as a direct result of the deviations from the standard of care by defendants, Steven Endres suffered permanent injury, pain, suffering, mental anguish, medical expenses and other losses."

         The Defendants responded by contending that the Plaintiffs' exclusive remedy was through the Kansas Workers Compensation Act and not through a tort action. Both moved to dismiss the lawsuit for failure to state a claim. In their view, this lawsuit was barred by law. The district court agreed and granted the motion to dismiss. This appeal followed.

         It is significant that this was a motion to dismiss.

         The district court dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim under K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 60-212(b)(6). This is the procedural equivalent to saying, "We have read your petition and say, so what? Since there is no legal significance to your claim, your lawsuit must be dismissed." Because this case centers on a motion to dismiss, certain rules guide our review.

         Whether a district court erred by granting a motion to dismiss is a question of law subject to our unlimited review. Cohen v. Battaglia, 296 Kan. 542, 545, 293 P.3d 752 (2013). During our review, caselaw commands that we must view the well-pleaded facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and assume as true those facts and any inferences reasonably drawn from them. If those facts and inferences state any claim upon which relief can be granted, then dismissal is improper. See Cohen, 296 Kan. at 545-46; K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 60-212. We will not resolve any factual disputes when deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Dismissal of a lawsuit is proper only when the allegations in the petition clearly demonstrate the plaintiff does not have a claim. See Steckline Communications, Inc. v. Journal Broadcast Group of Kansas, Inc., 305 Kan. 761, Syl. ¶ 2, 388 P.3d 84 (2017).

          Interestingly, this is a rather unique case where the employer is arguing that the worker (or his estate) is entitled to workers compensation benefits. Basically, the Defendants contend that the Plaintiffs have not stated a claim for which relief may be granted because the exclusive remedy ...


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