Addis Woman’s Medical Malpractice Claim Against LSU Doctor Dismissed

In November 2000, Debra Anne Addis of Addis, Louisiana filed a request for review with the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund alleging that Mary Eschette M.D. of LSU Medical Center acted negligently in changing her prescription medications and violated the appropriate standard care in failing to properly diagnose a problem with her left wrist. The medical review board entered their decision in September 2003 and concluded that Ms. Addis failed to show that the defendant’s did not meet the applicable standard of care in her treatment. Two and a half years later the defendant doctor and medical center filed a motion for summary judgment and submitted the medical review panel opinion, asserting that the plaintiff Ms. Addis failed to name an expert despite almost six years of discovery.
The Louisiana Court of Appeals (first circuit) entered their decision in March of last year in favor of the defendants. The court found that the record of the case showed Ms. Addis failed to submit any evidence to counter the medical review panel’s opinion or show she could meet her burden of proof should the case go to trial. Therefore, the court granted summary judgment to the defendants and ordered the Plaintiff to pay all costs associated with her appeal.
The granting of a summary judgment motion means that a case will not proceed any further because the plaintiff has failed to present evidence showing sufficient issues of material fact that can be decided by a jury. Therefore the decision is decided by the court as a matter of law. Summary judgment motions can be granted for the plaintiff or defendant. Here, the motion was granted for the defendant, effectively dismissing Ms. Addis’ case.
In Louisiana injured patients may bring claims against health care providers under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act. When such actions are brought they are screened by a panel of one non-voting attorney and three competent doctors to determine whether the evidence proves that the physician or facility failed to act according to the appropriate standard of care or whether they were negligent, incompetent or acted unlawfully. If the patient is successful in her claim, a portion of the damages is then paid out of the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund. The decision of the panel is considered expert testimony and is admissible against a plaintiff. The members of the panel may even be called as an expert witness during court proceedings.
If, as here, the defendant submits a medical review panel opinion in support of a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff can no longer rely on the allegations in her pleadings to prove her claim but must present evidence establishing genuine issues of material fact. This often requires the expert witness testimony of a doctor that can contradict the findings of the review board. Ms. Addis and her attorney had over six years to find a doctor and get such testimony but according to the court, failed to do so.
Ms. Addis may have been able to get past the defendant’s motion for summary judgment in this case if her attorney had taken the time and effort to employ a competent expert witness to testify on her behalf. In medical malpractice cases expert witnesses are often expensive, but necessary, in order that the injured individual have the greatest chance of recovery.