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Petition for further review from the Court of Appeals, MOORE, PIRTLE, and RIEDMANNNN, Judges, on appeal thereto from the District Court for Kimball County, DEREK C. WEIMER, Judge. Judgment of Court of Appeals affirmed.
Sterling T. Huff, of Island & Huff, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.
Mark A. Christensen, of Cline, Williams, Wright, Johnson & Oldfather, L.L.P., for appellees Kimball County Hospital and Trevor W. Bush, M.D.
Vincent Valentino and Brandy Johnson for appellee Kimball County.
HEAVICAN, C.J., CONNNNOLLY, STEPHAN, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, AND CASSEL, JJ. WRIGHT, J., not participating.
[289 Neb. 881] Cassel, J.
After receiving treatment at a county hospital, a patient filed a tort claim pursuant to the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act (Act) and later filed suit against the county, the hospital, and a physician. The district court dismissed the county and entered summary judgment in favor of the hospital and the physician. The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed.
We conclude that as a matter of law, a county hospital is a separate and distinct political subdivision from the county. Because the county could have no liability under the facts alleged, any error in failing to allow the patient to present evidence on the county's motion to dismiss was harmless. And because the patient did not file his tort claim with the statutorily designated individual, he failed to comply with notice requirements of the Act. We therefore affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.
Medical Treatment and Tort Claim
On December 18, 2010, Bradly Brothers suffered injuries in a single-vehicle accident. As a result of his injuries, Brothers received medical treatment at Kimball County Hospital on December 18, 20, and 30. Brothers continued to suffer pain, and one of his fingers was visibly bent. A chiropractor subsequently took an x ray of Brothers' finger and discovered multiple fractures. On April 5, 2011, Brothers filed a tort claim pursuant to the Act with the Kimball County clerk, the chairperson of the Kimball Health Services Board of Trustees, and the chief executive officer (CEO) of Kimball Health Services.
Pleadings in Lawsuit
On July 6, 2012, Brothers filed a complaint against Kimball County (County); the Kimball Health Services Board of Trustees; Kimball Health Services; Trevor W. Bush, M.D.; and another employee of the hospital. His complaint set forth causes of action for medical malpractice, for violation of his [289 Neb. 882] right to privacy under certain statutes or " false light" violation of privacy, and for breach of contract.
The County filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, that the County was not the employer of personnel at Kimball Health Services, and that the County was not involved in the health care services provided to Brothers. The County also filed a motion for protective order, asking that no discovery against it be allowed for the same reasons contained in the motion to dismiss.
Kimball County Hospital and Bush filed an answer to Brothers' complaint. The answer stated that Kimball County Hospital
had been erroneously referred to as " Kimball Health Services" and that there was no legal entity named " 'Kimball Health Services Board of Trustees.'" The answer admitted that Kimball County Hospital was a county hospital and a political subdivision and that Bush was an employee of Kimball County Hospital. Brothers thereafter moved to file an amended complaint to add Kimball County Hospital as a defendant.
Brothers later filed a second amended complaint against " Kimball County Hospital, d/b/a Kimball Health Services," and Bush. He alleged that Bush was an employee of Kimball County Hospital. In the responsive pleading of Kimball County Hospital and Bush, they asserted, among other things, that Brothers failed to comply with the notice requirements of the Act.
District Court's Disposition
In the analysis section of this opinion, we provide more detail regarding the procedures followed in disposing of the County's motion to dismiss. The court's first order treated it as a motion for summary judgment and granted the motion. Upon Brothers' motion to alter or amend the judgment, the court " clarif[ied]" that it granted the County's motion to dismiss and overruled Brothers' " request" to submit additional evidence.
Kimball County Hospital and Bush subsequently moved for summary judgment. The evidence established that under the bylaws of Kimball County Hospital, the secretary " shall act as [289 Neb. 883] custodian of all records and reports of the Board of Trustees" and " shall be responsible for the keeping and reporting of adequate records of all transactions and of the minutes of all meetings of the Board of Trustees." Despite the bylaws' allocation of responsibility, the CEO of Kimball County Hospital testified in a deposition that he was the custodian of legal documents for the hospital, that he received Brothers' tort claim in April 2011, and that he discussed the tort claim with members of the board of trustees, including the secretary. The district court found that Brothers did ...