Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
Kirt v. Metzinger
Elaine Kirt died in 2010, due to complications that developed shortly after undergoing eye surgery. On September 23, 2011, her son, Neville Kirt, appearing in person and on behalf of his deceased mother and his two brothers, filed a request with the Division of Administration asking for a medical review panel to review the care provided to his mother by three defendants: Dr. Rebecca Metzinger, the attending surgeon; Dr. Theodore Strickland III, the anesthesiologist for the procedure; and Tulane Medical Center. In a reply letter to Neville, the Patient’s Compensation Fund Oversight Board (PCF) acknowledged receipt of the request; confirmed Dr. Metzinger, Dr. Strickland, and Tulane University Hospital & Clinic were qualified under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (Act); informed Kirt a filing fee of $100 per qualified defendant was due; and requested payment of $300. The notice stated the failure to pay would render the request invalid, without effect, and would not suspend the time to file suit. Days later, then appearing through counsel, the Kirts sent a second letter asking to amend its previous request, adding two additional nurses. The Kirts included a $500 check to cover filing fees. A medical review panel convened, reviewed the care provided by all named healthcare providers, and found no breach of the standard of care. The Kirts thereafter filed against the doctors and nurses. Claims against the doctors were dismissed by summary judgments because there was no proof they breached the standard of care while treating Elaine Kirt. Those judgments expressly barred allocating fault to the dismissed parties and prohibited introducing evidence at trial to establish their fault. The nurses then filed peremptory exceptions of prescription, claiming the request for a medical review panel was invalid because the Kirts failed to pay the final $100 filing fee, and prescription was not suspended for any claims. The trial court concurred with the nurses and granted an exception of prescription. The Supreme Court determined that because the Kirts paid filing fees for five of six named defendants, dismissal of one of the nurses was proper for lack of a filing fee. The Court determined the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' argument that they could not have reasonable known about the claims against two of the nurse defendants until one was deposed. Because the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' basis for the exception of prescription, which could have turned on factual findings, the Supreme Court pretermitted consideration of these arguments and remanded the matter to the trial court for further disposition of the exception. View "Kirt v. Metzinger" on Justia Law
Thomas v. Regional Health System of Acadiana, LLC
The Louisiana Supreme Court granted writs in consolidated matters to consider whether allegations of negligent credentialing against two healthcare providers were claims that fell within the purview of Louisiana’s Medical Malpractice Act or, alternatively, sounded in general negligence. Mariah Charles was born prematurely in October 2014 at Lafayette General Medical Center (LGMC) and hospitalized there until March 2015, when she was transferred to Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Lafayette (W&C) until her release a month later. Dr. Geeta Dalal, a pediatric cardiologist with clinical privileges at both hospitals, contributed to Mariah’s care during and after Mariah’s hospitalization. While Mariah remained at LGMC, Dr. Dalal ordered and interpreted eight echocardiograms that, according to the petition, revealed abnormal findings that could cause pulmonary artery hypertension, yet, the petition alleged Dr. Dalal took no action other than ordering additional echocardiograms. After Mariah’s transfer to W&C, Dr. Dalal interpreted more echocardiograms, again noted abnormalities, and allegedly failed to properly diagnose or treat Mariah. Mariah’s mother initiated Medical Review Panel proceedings with the Patient’s Compensation Fund against Dr. Dalal and the hospital defendants alleging medical malpractice and seeking damages for their alleged failure to properly diagnose and treat Mariah. In addition to the Medical Review Panel proceedings, Mariah's mother filed suit against the hospitals, The Regional Health System of Acadiana, LLC, Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Inc., HCA Holdings, Inc., and Health Care Indemnity, Inc. (W&C), as well as Lafayette General Medical Center, Inc. and/or Lafayette General Health System, Inc. (LGMC), for damages related to Mariah’s care. The petition for damages asserted a single cause of action that LGMC and W&C were liable under general tort law because they “negligently credentialed Dr. Dalal and negligently provided her with privileges to practice” in their facilities “even though [they] knew or should have known she was not board certified in the field of pediatric cardiology.” LGMC and W&C filed dilatory exceptions of prematurity to this suit, asserting that they were qualified healthcare providers under the MMA and were entitled to have Thomas’s negligent credentialing claims presented first to a medical review panel pursuant to R.S. 40:1231.8(B)(1)(a)(i). Based on the allegations presented by the petition, the provisions of the LMMA, and application of the "Coleman" factors, the Supreme Court found the trial court correctly sustained the exceptions of prematurity raised by LGMC and W&C, therefore reversing the court of appeal's judgment and reinstated the trial court’s judgment. View "Thomas v. Regional Health System of Acadiana, LLC" on Justia Law
Guffey v. Lexington House, LLC
Plaintiffs, two of the decedent’s children, brought wrongful death and survival actions under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act against a nursing home, alleging that injuries the decedent received when the nursing home’s employee dropped her while transferring her from a bath chair to her bed caused her to suffer injuries that ultimately resulted in her death. The decedent’s granddaughter, rather than plaintiffs, initially filed a request for a medical review panel ostensibly as the representative either of the decedent or her estate. The lower courts found that the granddaughter was a “claimant” within the meaning of the Medical Malpractice Act, namely La. R.S. 40:1231.1(A)(4) and (A)(16), and that her timely request had therefore suspended prescription with regard to the medical malpractice claims of the plaintiffs, even though they had not been named as claimants in the original request for a medical review panel. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court found the lower courts erred in concluding the granddaughter was a proper “claimant” under the language of the Act on the basis that she was a succession representative for the decedent’s estate. Because the initial request for the medical review panel was not made by a proper “claimant,” prescription was not tolled. Accordingly, because defendant’s exception of prescription should have been granted, the trial court’s ruling denying the exception of prescription was reversed. View "Guffey v. Lexington House, LLC" on Justia Law
Burchfield v. Wright
The defendant surgeon ordered pre-operative tests including a chest x-ray and an electrocardiogram (“EKG”) before performing non-emergency gallbladder surgery on the plaintiff. However, defendant did not review the results of these tests prior to performing the surgery, but had he done so, the tests would have alerted him to potential issues with plaintiff’s heart necessitating the ordering of a cardiac consult prior to surgery. Although the surgery itself was successful and uneventful, some thirty or so hours after discharge, plaintiff suffered a heart attack and eventually had to undergo a heart transplant. Plaintiff and his wife brought suit against defendant alleging medical malpractice. The defendant surgeon settled, and the Louisiana Patients’ Compensation Fund (“PCF”) intervened. After a trial against the PCF, the jury declined to find plaintiffs had proven the surgeon’s failure to review the test results and to refer his patient to a cardiologist before performing the surgery had caused the patient to suffer the subsequent heart attack that ultimately necessitated a heart transplant. Instead, the jury found plaintiffs had proven the defendant’s breach of the standard of care had resulted in the loss of a less than even chance of a better outcome. The jury awarded plaintiffs lump sum general damages, which the trial court in its judgment made subject to the Medical Malpractice Act’s limitation on the total amount recoverable by plaintiffs, La. Rev. Stat. 40:1231.2. The court of appeal found legal error in what it deemed to be a “patently inconsistent” jury verdict in light of the verdict form, but it nonetheless found the jury’s determination that plaintiffs had proven a lost chance of a better outcome was clearly supported by the record. The court of appeal then awarded general damages (affirming the trial court’s award), but it also awarded special damages, including past medicals, future medicals, and lost wages, which it did not subject to the Medical Malpractice Act’s limitation on the total amount recoverable. The Louisiana Supreme Court found the court of appeal erred in its decision, reversed it, and reinstated the jury’s verdict, the award of lump sum general damages, and the trial court’s judgment. View "Burchfield v. Wright" on Justia Law
Coulon v. Endurance Risk Partners, Inc.
Plaintiffs alleged that an infection developed after negligent medical treatment was provided by the defendants. Accordingly, they filed a Request for Medical Review Panel and, subsequently, a lawsuit. The Supreme Court granted the plaintiffs’ writ application to determine whether the medical review panel complaint was sufficient to survive an exception of prematurity. After review, the Court found the brief descriptions of malpractice contained in the complaint were broad enough to encompass the specific allegations contained in the petition for damages. Thus, the Court reversed the lower courts’ grant of the exception of prematurity and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Coulon v. Endurance Risk Partners, Inc." on Justia Law
Pitts v. Louisiana Medical Mutual Ins. Co.
This medical malpractice case arose from the death of Lyric Pitts, seven month old daughter of plaintiffs David Pitts, Jr. and Kenyetta Gurley. A jury found in favor of defendant Dr. Rhoda Jones. Plaintiffs moved for a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (JNOV), or alternatively for a new trial. The district court granted the JNOV and conditionally granted the new trial. The court of appeal reversed and reinstated the jury's verdict. The Supreme Court granted plaintiffs' writ application to review the correctness of the lower courts' rulings on the JNOV and new trial. After its review, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal's ruling reversing the district court's grant of the JNOV. However, the Court reversed the ruling of the court of appeal relative to the new trial, finding no abuse of discretion in the district court's grant of a new trial. View "Pitts v. Louisiana Medical Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Thibodeaux v. Donnell
In 2003, plaintiff Kimberly Thibodeaux became pregnant with her fourth child. Dr. James Donnell was her obstetrician-gynecologist throughout her pregnancy. During the course of the pregnancy, plaintiff was diagnosed with complete placenta previa and, in mid-November, at approximately 29 weeks pregnant, she was hospitalized for four days. Upon Dr. Donnell’s referral, she consulted a maternal/fetal medicine specialist who handled high risk pregnancies; the specialist recommended rest, limited activity, and delivery of plaintiff’s child at 36-37 weeks gestation. Plaintiff returned to the hospital with renewed vaginal bleeding and contractions. Dr. Donnell delivered plaintiff’s child via cesarean section. Shortly after the baby’s delivery, Dr. Donnell performed an emergency cesarean hysterectomy, which entailed removal of plaintiff’s uterus and cervix. After completing the hysterectomy, and while preparing to close plaintiff’s abdomen, Dr. Donnell discovered a large laceration to her bladder, which he repaired himself. After completing the surgery, Dr. Donnell ordered a test to determine if the bladder repair was successful. The test revealed that the bladder sutures were obstructing plaintiff’s ureters, the tubes that drain urine from the kidney into the bladder. This obstruction was then confirmed by a cystoscopy performed by a urologist, Dr. Robert Alexander, consulted by Dr. Donnell. The same day as the birth and cesarean hysterectomy, Dr. Alexander reopened plaintiff’s abdomen, removed the bladder sutures to free the ureters, and re-repaired the bladder laceration. Plaintiff followed up again with Dr. Alexander in late April 2004. Although her bladder healed, plaintiff continued to see Dr. Alexander for three years with irritative bladder symptoms, including urinary frequency every 30-60 minutes, urgency, urine leakage, painful urination, painful sexual intercourse, urination during sexual intercourse, excessive nighttime urination, and abdominal pain. Dr. Alexander diagnosed her with interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, and prescribed medications, none of which relieved plaintiff’s symptoms. According to Dr. Alexander, plaintiff’s diminished bladder capacity was permanent. The Supreme Court granted review of this case to determine whether the court of appeal properly assessed damages under the principles set forth in “Coco v. Winston Industries Inc.,” (341 So. 2d 332 (La. 1976)). The Court found that, because the court of appeal found manifest error in the jury’s factual findings, the appellate court should have instead performed a de novo review of damages under the principles outlined in “Mart v. Hill,” (505 So. 2d 1120 (La. 1987)). Accordingly, the Court reversed the court of appeal and remanded back to that court for reconsideration under the proper caselaw precedent. View "Thibodeaux v. Donnell" on Justia Law
Billeaudeau v. Opelousas General Hospital Authority
The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was a res nova issue of whether a claim for negligent credentialing fell within the purview of the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (LMMA) and was, therefore, subject to its statutory cap on damages. After completion of the medical review process, plaintiffs Brandi, Veronica, and Joseph Billeaudeau proceeded in their suit against Opelousas General Hospital Authority (OGH), among other defendants, for injuries Brandi sustained allegedly arising from the medical malpractice of Dr. Kondilo Skirlis-Zavala, an independent contractor working in the OGH’s emergency department (ED). Along with their medical malpractice claims, plaintiffs specifically alleged OGH was negligent in credentialing Dr. Zavala and subsequently moved for partial summary judgment, seeking a determination that their negligent credentialing claim was not subject to the LMMA’s cap on damages. The District Court granted the motion and ultimately certified the judgment as final. The Court of Appeal affirmed on appeal. The Supreme Court found plaintiffs’ negligent credentialing claim did not fall within the provisions of the LMMA. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeal. View "Billeaudeau v. Opelousas General Hospital Authority" on Justia Law
Dupuy v. NMC Operating Company, LLC d/b/a Spine Hospital of Louisiana
This case arose from post-operative injuries plaintiff Richard Dupuy sustained based on a hospital’s alleged failure to properly maintain and service equipment utilized in the sterilization of surgical instruments. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the plaintiffs’ claims that the hospital failed to properly maintain and service equipment utilized in the sterilization of surgical instruments fell within the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA”). The Supreme Court concluded the claims did fall within the MMA and reversed the ruling of the district court which held to the contrary. View "Dupuy v. NMC Operating Company, LLC d/b/a Spine Hospital of Louisiana" on Justia Law
Milbert v. Answering Bureau, Inc.
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether a non-health care provider could be a joint tortfeasor with a health care provider being sued for medical malpractice. The non-health care provider in this case was an answering service tasked with relaying calls from a patient to their doctor after office hours. The patient learned that the service failed to convey his messages to his doctor despite the doctor giving the service explicit instructions to call. The patient sued the doctor for malpractice, and included the answering service. The service moved to dismiss, claiming that it could not be considered a joint tortfeasor under the statute under which the doctor had been sued. Finding that the clear language of La. R.S. 40:1299.47(A)(2)(a) applied to filing suit against the non-health care provider, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court rulings which granted and affirmed summary judgment in favor of the non-health care provider. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Milbert v. Answering Bureau, Inc." on Justia Law