Elkins v. Select Speciality Hospital

On February 14, 2024, the Nashville jury found the verdict in favor of the estate of the plaintiff, Jennifer Elkins, in a medical malpractice and negligence case against Select Speciality Hospital (SSH) in Tennessee.

Case Background

The medical malpractice was filed in the Court of Tennessee, Nashville, Davidson County by Jennifer Elkin’s estate after her death. Hon. Thomas Brothers presided over this case.

In 2015, Jennifer Elkins was a 44-year-old accountant at Dollar General. She suffered a severe car accident in August 2015 that left her quadriplegic. Three months later, on November 16, 2015, doctors transferred her to Select Speciality Hospital (SSH). It was a facility specializing in critical recovery care and operated as a subsidiary of Select Medical. She remained at SSH until January 31, 2017, when medical staff moved her to another hospital in Bowling Green, KY.

During this transition, doctors discovered that she had developed approximately 14 pressure wounds, which had become infected and septic. Medical personnel subjected Elkins to an extensive treatment regimen. The treatment involved debridements, administration of multiple antibiotics, and the removal of necrotic tissue. After spending a month at the hospital in Bowling Green, medical staff transferred her on February 24, 2017, to a hospital closer to her home in Scottsville, KY. Sadly, she passed away on March 10, 2017, at the age of 46.

Key Arguments and Proceedings

Legal Representation

  • Counsel for Plaintiff: Plaintiff Jennifer Elkins was represented by Cameron J. Jehl, Casey L. Acerra, Deena K. Arnold, and April A. Huntoon, Jehl Law Group, Memphis
  • Experts for Plaintiff: Dr. Brad Mayfield | Tisha Barzyk
  • Counsel for Defendants: Defendant Select Speciality Hospital was represented by Thomas A. Wiseman, III, and Margaret Moore, Wiseman Ashworth Trauger, Nashville
  • Experts for Defendants: Dr. Mark Hammond | Heather Hart | Ralph Micheletti, RN | Dr. Bryan Kraft | Dr. Robert Garza | Dr. James Grippo


In this case, the Elkins estate filed a lawsuit against SSH, accusing it of negligence. They claimed that SSH failed to treat, monitor, assess, and supervise Jennifer Elkins to prevent the development of pressure sores and manage her overall care. Evidence showed Elkins relied entirely on SSH nursing care for all her needs, including repositioning. The plaintiff also attempted to hold SSH’s parent company, Select Medical, liable by arguing it should be considered an alter ego to pierce the corporate veil.

The jury was presented with evidence on this matter to reach a factual conclusion. Additionally, the plaintiff sought punitive damages, alleging the defendant’s actions were reckless. The parties introduced evidence regarding the financial status of the defendants in relation to the punitive damages claim.


The defendants disputed allegations that they had neglected to adequately treat, monitor, or assess Elkins. They attributed her deteriorating condition to serious underlying health issues, suggesting that the development of her pressure wounds was inevitable. The defense also contested the alter ego accusation. They refuted claims of negligence and reckless conduct in their care for Elkins.

Expert Testimony

Both parties presented testimonies of expert witnesses to support their arguments. The plaintiff’s liability experts were Dr. Brad Mayfield, specializing in Surgery and Wound Care Management in Lake Village, AR, and Tisha Barzyk, a Nurse Practitioner with expertise in wound care from Mt. Juliet. They criticized two SSH defendants specifically: Clinton Stovall, a nurse, and Sarah Hutchinson, SSH’s Chief of Nursing. The plaintiff also blamed SSH for negligence and for failing to maintain adequate nursing staffing levels.

The defense relied on the following experts: Dr. Mark Hammond, an Internist from Memphis; Heather Hart, a Nurse Practitioner from Nashville; Ralph Micheletti, RN, from Memphis; Dr. Bryan Kraft, specializing in Critical Care from St. Louis, MO; and Dr. Robert Garza and Dr. James Grippo.

Jury Verdict

The trial spanned 12 days, from January 29, 2024, to its conclusion on February 14, 2024. During the liability and damages phase, the jury delivered a mixed verdict. It absolved Stovall of fault but found Hutchinson negligent, attributing injury but not death to her actions. Additionally, the jury found that SSH had insufficient nursing staff.

Proceeding to the alter ego inquiry, the jury affirmed SSH as an alter ego of Select Medical, effectively piercing the corporate veil. Moving on to damages, the jury awarded $346,273 for medical expenses. Pain and suffering amounted to $500,000. An additional $425,000 was awarded for loss of enjoyment of life, totaling compensatory damages of $1,271,273, including $925,000 for non-economic damages.

The question of punitive damages followed, where the jury determined by clear and convincing evidence that Select Medical acted recklessly, resulting in punitive damages of $5,704,587 for negligence, surpassing the state’s $500,000 cap on punitive and equating to a 4.48 to 1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages. Thus, the total award came up to $6,975,860.

Post-verdict, Judge Brothers reviewed potential reductions. The non-economic damages exceeded Tennessee’s statutory cap, requiring a deduction of $175,000. The applicability of the $500,000 cap on punitive damages remained contentious. The defense advocated its imposition based on precedent, while the plaintiff argued against it, citing conflicting case law, notably Lindenberg v. Jackson National Life.

After nearly two and a half months, Judge Brothers finalized the verdict at $6,800,860 for the estate. The full punitive damages amount of $5,704,587 was retained, without applying a cap.

Court Documents:

Available upon request