Prematurity Raised in Nursing Home Injury Case

The exception of prematurity determines whether a plaintiff has fulfilled a condition prior to filing suit. That is, in some occasions, Louisiana law requires a complaining party to bring the case somewhere else before they can actually file the case in court. Generally, that means that an administrative remedy exists elsewhere, and the complaining party should use that avenue first instead of the court.

There are two burdens involved in the exception of prematurity. The first is on the party raising the exception. The party raising the exception should prove that there is another remedy elsewhere available and that the complaining party failed to exhaust their administrative options before bring the case to court. Once the party raising the exception has satisfied their buren, then the burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove that he or she has actually exhausted all of the options before bringing the case to the courtroom. See Mosley v. Louisiana Dept. of Public Safety & Corrections, et. al., 07-1501 (La. App. 3d Cir. 4/2/08), 980 So.2d 836.

A case arising from Deridder Louisiana in the Parish of Beauregard shows an example of the exception of prematurity. In that case, the plaintiff was a patient at Westwood Manor Nursing Home following a surgery on his skull. While an attendant was moving the plaintiff, the plaintiff struck his head against a wall and had to have immediate surgery. It is alleged that one worker moved the plaintiff while the other watched, but the second person did not help the first when the first lost his balance, causing the plaintiff to hit his head against the wall. The plaintiff allegedly suffered permanent damage as a result of the collision with the wall.

The plaintiff complained of failure to care for patients, failure to train employees properly, and the failure of the second employee to help the first to transfer the patient. The court examined none of these accusations, however. Instead, the court explained that the plaintiff’s case was barred by the exception of prematurity. The Medical Malpractice Act, La.R.S. 40:1299.47, requires that malpractice claims must first be presented to a medical review panel, and plaintiff failed to fulfill that requirement.

In order for the exception of prematurity to apply, plaintiff’s claim needed to fall within the definition of malpractice. Louisiana code defines malpractice, but the plaintiff relied on a six-part test that is laid out in another case, Coleman v. Deno, 01-1517 (La. 2/25/02), 813 So.2d 303. The six part test includes: (1) whether the particular wrong is ‘treatment related’ or caused by a dereliction of professional skill; (2) whether the wrong requires expert medical evidence to determine whether the appropriate standard of care was breached; (3) whether the act or omission involved assessment of the patient’s condition; (4) whether the incident occurred in the context of a physician-patient relationship, or was within the scope of activities a hospital is licensed to perform; (5) whether the injury would have occurred had the patient not sought treatment; and (6) whether the tort was intentional. Again, the court did not examine the merits of plaintiff’s claim because of Louisiana’s unique status as a civil law state.

The court explained this role: “As a civilian jurisdiction, we look first to the plain language of the statute, and only resort to interpretive analysis when there is some ambiguity.” The definition of medical malpractice related to the plaintiff’s claim is found specifically in the Medical Malpractice Act: “handling of a patient, including loading and unloading of a patient… in the training or supervision of health care providers…” As such, the court found no need to look further. The action fell within the Medical Malpractice Act’s definition of malpractice, and therefore, in compliance with the Act, plaintiff should have brought his claim to a medical review board prior to bringing the case to court. The case was barred by the exception of prematurity and dismissed accordingly.

It may be difficult to determine when you need to bring a case to an administrative body in compliance with the law before actually taking the case to court. Thorough research is required to be sure your case does not end up like the one described here.

Call The Berniard Law Firm today at 1-866-574-8005 and we will be happy to research your claim and help you manage all the hurdles in the law.