Justia Louisiana Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice
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In 2018, plaintiffs Isiah and Chrishanna Smith filed a medical malpractice suit on behalf of their minor son, Mason Heath. Dr. Robert Russell, Minden Medical Center and staff, and Dr. Cristal Kirby were named defendants. The complaint alleged malpractice in connection with Mason’s circumcision performed by Dr. Russell at Minden Medical Center on August 18, 2015. Dr. Kirby subsequently treated Mason on September 2, 2015 and September 23, 2015. The child experienced complications with the circumcision site. After a second opinion, plaintiffs filed suit against Dr. Russell and the medical center. Dr. Russell and Minden Medical filed an exception of prescription, contending they only rendered care to Mason on August 18, 2015. Because the complaint was filed August 14, 2018, beyond the one-year limitation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:5628(A), they argued plaintiffs’ claim was prescribed on the face of the pleadings. Moreover, they urged that plaintiffs continually observed problems with the circumcision site, which required prescription steroid cream, and these facts constituted discovery, triggering prescription more than one year before the August 2018 filing. Dr. Kirby filed a separate exception of prescription. She asserted September 23, 2015 was her last contact with Mason; thus, the suit filed August 14, 2018 was prescribed on its face. Plaintiffs challenged the lower courts' ruling that their claim was prescribed. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, finding "plaintiffs did not sleep on their rights. They persistently cared for their child by bringing him to wellness visits and asking questions to ensure the circumcision site was properly healing. ... medical professionals assuaged their concerns and a reasonable explanation of post-circumcision healing existed. Plaintiffs filed their complaint within one year of discovery and within three years of the alleged act, omission, or neglect, making their claim timely pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:5628(A). We reverse the granting of the exception of prescription." View "In re: Medical Review Panel of Mason Heath" on Justia Law

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On November 21, 2017, Richard Bush presented to Saint Bernard Parish Hospital for depression and suicidal ideations. At the hospital, Dr. Miguel Aguilera treated and discharged him. Bush attempted re-admittance with the same complaints, but was refused re-admittance. Thereafter, Bush attempted suicide in the hospital bathroom. He was found alive and transported to University Hospital in New Orleans for treatment; however, he succumbed to his injuries from the suicide attempt and died on November 30, 2017. In November 2018, his wife, Patricia Bush, on behalf of herself, her daughters, Madalyn and Ashley Bush, and on behalf of the decedent, Richard Bush, filed a formal pro se complaint with the Patient Compensation Fund (“PCF”) to convene a medical review panel (“MRP”), naming Saint Bernard Parish Hospital and Dr. Aguilera for malpractice relating to Richard Bush's death. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application in order to determine: (1) whether contra non valentem interrupted prescription; and (2) whether the court of appeal erred in relying on documents that were not entered as evidence and were not part of the record. The Court found that, while contra non valentem may interrupt prescription in a wrongful death claim in certain instances, it did not interrupt prescription in this case due to the fact that the court of appeal incorrectly considered documents that were not in evidence. The Court reversed the court of appeal’s ruling in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Medical Review Panel for the Claim of Richard Bush" on Justia Law

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This litigation arose from a medical malpractice suit brought by plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of their minor daughter, against Dr. Daryl Elias, Jr. and his insurer. Plaintiffs alleged Dr. Elias committed malpractice during the child’s delivery, causing a separated right shoulder and a broken clavicle. Plaintiffs also alleged the child suffered permanent injury when the five nerve roots of her brachial plexus were completely and partially avulsed from the spinal cord, causing her to lose the use of her right arm. At the conclusion of trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants, finding the treatment provided by Dr. Elias to the child did not fall below the applicable standard of care for an obstetrician gynecologist. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case for the primary purpose of addressing two narrow issues: (1) whether any errors in the district court’s evidentiary rulings interdicted the jury’s fact-finding process; and (2) if so, whether the court of appeal erred in reviewing the record de novo. The court of appeal found the district court committed prejudicial legal error in excluding the child's treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Kozin’s testimony in part and permitting defendant's retained expert, Dr. Grimm, to testify. The Supreme Court found no error in the judgment of the court of appeal insofar as it reversed the district court’s ruling limiting Dr. Kozin from testifying as to the cause of the child’s injuries: "a review of Dr. Kozin’s excluded testimony reveals he did not render any opinions on whether Dr. Elias breached the standard of care or was otherwise negligent. Rather, he simply testified as to the cause of the child’s injury, explaining that based on his expertise, he was 'certain the force applied by the delivering physician led to this injury.'" The district court erred in restricting his testimony. However, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its great discretion in finding Dr. Grimm’s testimony was admissible under the standards set forth in La. Code Evid. art. 702 and Daubert/Foret. The court of appeal erred in reversing the district court’s evidentiary ruling. Furthermore, the Court held the court of appeal abused its discretion by undertaking a de novo review of the record rather than remanding the case for a new trial. In all other respects, the judgment of the court of appeal was vacated, and the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "LaBauve, et al. v. Louisiana Medical Mutual Ins. Co., et al." on Justia Law

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In 2015, Dr. Robert Easton performed a left total hip arthroplasty on Mrs. Cheryl Mitchell, who had dislocated her hip. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Mitchell re-dislocated her hip and Dr. Easton performed a revision surgery. While Mrs. Mitchell was in the recovery room, Dr. Easton observed that she had "foot drop;" Dr. Easton performed a second surgery that same day. During the surgery, he discovered that Mrs. Mitchell’s sciatic nerve had been lacerated. Dr. Easton advised Mrs. Mitchell’s family of the situation and consulted with Dr. Rasheed Ahmad, a hand surgeon who handled nerve repairs for Dr. Easton’s medical group. Dr. Easton further advised Mrs. Mitchell that “time would tell how much, if any, function and sensory perception she would get back.” Unfortunately, Mrs. Mitchell’s foot drop never improved and she was left with sciatic nerve palsy. In 2017, Mrs. Mitchell and her husband Michael, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Easton, his employer, the Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic, L.L.C., and their insurers, Physician Assurance SPC. Defendants filed a peremptory exception of prescription, which the trial court granted, dismissing the action. The court of appeal affirmed, reasoning that, although Mrs. Mitchell continued to treat with Dr. Easton for more than a year after the alleged act of malpractice, that treatment was unrelated to the alleged act of malpractice. The Louisiana Supreme Court found no question the Mitchells, knew of the alleged act of malpractice within a day of its occurrence. "It is equally certain that suit was not filed against the treating physician, Dr. Robert Easton, within a year of the alleged malpractice. ... The sole issue, therefore, is whether prescription was suspended during this time period pursuant to the continuing treatment rule." The Court determined the record supported the lower courts' determinations that Mrs. Mitchell did not receive any specific care from Dr. Easton designed to correct or otherwise treat the injury related to the alleged act of malpractice. Even had Mrs. Mitchell received continuing treatment of her injury, the Court did not find Dr. Easton’s statements regarding her questionable prognosis to fall within the scope of the continuing treatment rule. Accordingly, under the specific circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court found the continuing treatment exception of contra non valentem did not apply to suspend prescription in this case, and affirmed the judgments below. View "Mitchell v. Baton Rouge Orthopedic Clinic, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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In late 2018, plaintiff Teresa Kelleher began to experience pain in her thoracic spine. Plaintiff was ultimately found to have an abscess in her thoracic spine with positive marrow infiltration around the T2 and T3 vertebrae. A 2019 bone biopsy confirmed acute and chronic osteomyelitis (bone infection). Plaintiff alleged she was neurologically intact and ambulatory at that time. Plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Felipe Ramirez, referred her to an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Julio Figueroa, who was affiliated with the LSU-Health Sciences Center-New Orleans, who recommended "prompt" treatment with antibiotics. Plaintiff alleged, however, she was told that defendant University Medical Center Management Corporation d/b/a University Medical Center New Orleans (“UMC”) would contact her to schedule an appointment for treatment at its Infectious Disease (“ID”) Clinic. Having not heard from anyone for several days, she called UMC to inquire about her appointment status and was told to “be patient” because “it was Christmastime.” In January 2019, plaintiff was taken to Touro Infirmary with lower extremity paralysis. Her osteomyelitis had progressed to the point that she lost neurological function of her lower extremity. Despite treatment at Touro, plaintiff was rendered paraplegic due to the progressed osteomyelitis. In August 2019, plaintiff filed a medical malpractice complaint against UMC, Dr. Figueroa, and the State of Louisiana through the Board of Supervisors of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College and LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans (“LSU”). Two months later, plaintiff filed suit in district court against Dr. Figueroa and UMC for, inter alia, “failing to properly train administrative personnel to schedule appointments [and] failing to arrange for the promised prompt appointment for [plaintiff].” Defendants responded with dilatory exceptions of prematurity asserting the claims were not solely “administrative,” and were therefore covered by the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act and had to be submitted to a medical review panel. The trial court, without giving reasons, granted Dr. Figueroa’s and LSU’s exception, but denied UMC’s exception. The Louisiana Supreme Court found plaintiff did not qualify as a “patient” of UMC under the definitions in the Act. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court’s denial of the dilatory exception of prematurity and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Kelleher v. University Medical Center Management Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Brenda Bergeron, individually and on behalf of her husband, Donald Bergeron, filed a medical malpractice claim against Donald Richardson, M.D. and Paul Hubbell, III, M.D. A medical review panel unanimously found Defendants breached the standard of care. Two of the three panel members found Defendants caused Mr. Bergeron’s pain, illness, and death. Plaintiff then filed wrongful death and survival actions against Defendants. Nearly six years later, Defendants filed a motion for bond for cost pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statutes 13:4522. Plaintiff opposed the motion on several grounds, namely : (1) the motion was untimely under the plain language of the statute; (2) the costs claimed by Defendants were expenses, not actual taxable costs; and (3) she challenged the constitutionality of the statute. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion for bond for cost, finding it untimely. The trial court concluded Louisiana Revised Statutes 13:4522 precluded a motion for a cost bond after the defendant’s answer is filed. Because the motion was denied, the trial court found the constitutional claim moot. The Court of Appeal reversed, but the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, concurring with the trial court that defendants' motion for bond for costs was untimely. View "Bergeron v. Richardson et al." on Justia Law

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In October 2012, plaintiff Donna Brown filed a complaint with the Louisiana Division of Administration against Dr. Ralph Chesson. Subsequently, she was notified of Dr. Chesson’s status as a qualified state health care provider and a medical review panel was convened. After the medical review panel rendered its opinion in favor of Dr. Chesson, Brown filed a petition for damages solely against Dr. Chesson in 2015. In the petition she alleged medical malpractice during a 2011 surgical procedure and requested service on Dr. Chesson at his office. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to determine whether it was sufficient to request service solely on a qualified state health care provider when that individual was the only named defendant in a medical malpractice suit. Specifically, whether plaintiff’s request for service and citation within ninety days from the commencement of this suit on only the defendant physician satisfied the statutory requirements for service on a state employee. The Supreme Court found that the service was sufficient and the court of appeal erred in sustaining the exceptions of insufficiency of citation and service of process. View "Brown v. Chesson" on Justia Law

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Mariah Charles was born prematurely in October 2014 at Lafayette General Medical Center (LGMC) and hospitalized there until transferred to Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Lafayette (W&C). She was released in April 2015 release. 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. The petition alleged Dr. Dalal took no action other than ordering additional echocardiograms. After Mariah’s transfer to W&C, Dr. Dalal interpreted three more echocardiograms, again noted abnormalities, and allegedly failed to properly diagnose or treat Mariah. On May 8, Mariah was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at W&C and examined by another pediatric cardiologist who diagnosed pulmonary artery hypertension. Mariah was transferred by helicopter to Children’s Hospital of New Orleans where medical staff confirmed the diagnosis and performed a heart catheterization procedure. Mariah’s mother, Megan Thomas (Thomas), 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, Thomas filed suit against the hospitals: The Regional Health System of Acadiana, LLC, Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Inc., HCA Holdings, Inc. W&C, and LGMC. The issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review centered on allegations of negligent credentialing against Dr. Dalal, and whether those allegations fell within the scope of the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act, or alternatively, sounded in general negligence. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, and reinstated the trial court's judgment sustaining the hospital defendants' exceptions of prematurity. View "Thomas v. Regional Health System of Acadiana, LLC." on Justia Law

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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

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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