Third Circuit Court of Appeals Reverses 10-2 Jury Holding in Medical Malpractice Case

A February 27, 2013, decision issued by the Court of Appeals of Louisiana overruled a jury verdict in favor of defendant Dr. Robin Yue, finding that he failed to obtain informed consent before performing surgery on his patient, Plaintiff Clyde Snider, Jr.

At only 26-years old, Mr. Snider already had a personal as well as a family history of heart trouble, diabetes, and high blood pressure. On November 28, 2007, Mr. Snider and his wife Lisa went to the Emergency Room at Beauregard Memorial Hospital (Beauregard) in DeRidder, after Mr. Snider experienced chest pains and an extreme drop in his pulse rate. At Beauregard, Mr. Snider expressed a desire to be transferred to his primary cardiologist, Dr. J. King White, but Dr. Yue asserted that Mr. Snider required immediate attention and scheduled him for a heart catharization. Right before the procedure, Mr. Snider signed a consent form, provided to him by Dr. Yue. The implant procedure left a permanent scar, and Mr. Snider suffered pain and lost normal use of his left arm for several weeks.

Mr. Snider was later examined by Dr. White, after an injury and infection around the location of the pacemaker (which were unrelated to the implant procedure). Dr. White removed the pacemaker, and he told Mr. Snider that the implantation of the pacemaker was unnecessary and unwarranted given his condition when he went to Beauregard. A three-member Medical Review Panel unanimously agreed that Dr. Yue violated the proper standard of care in performing the surgery on Mr. Snider under the non-emergent circumstances.

How did 10 out of 12 jurors come to the conclusion that Dr. Yue exercised the proper standard of care, after hearing testimony from Dr. White, the Medical Review Panel, and even Dr. Yue himself stressing that Mr. Snider’s condition was not critical, and that there was no need for an emergency procedure? According to the appellate court’s legal analysis, the procedure in question was not “bungled”, nor was it “completely unnecessary”. Mr. Snider lost at trial simply because he signed a consent form.

According to Louisiana law, “consent shall be presumed to be valid and effective, in the absence of proof that execution of the consent was induced by misrepresentation of material facts.” La.R.S. 40:1299.40. (Note that La.R.S. 40:1299.40, was repealed July 12, 2012 and is now contained in La. R.S. 40:1299.39.5). A physician must also provide his client with “sufficient information” to allow him to make an “informed and intelligent decision.” The introduction of the consent form provided to Mr. Snider reflected Louisiana’s law, which required that the patient be informed of “(1) the nature of [his/her] condition, (2) the general nature of the medical treatment/surgery, (3) the risks of the proposed treatment/surgery, as defined by the Louisiana Medical Disclosure Panel or as determined by your doctor, (4) reasonable therapeutic alternatives and material risks associated with such alternatives, and (5) risks of treatment”.

However, the substantive portion of Mr. Snider’s consent form was left partially blank. Though Dr. Yue disclosed the risks of the procedure, he did not list additional risks posed by Mr. Snider’s condition or by the medications he was taking. Dr. Yue also failed to fill in information regarding the reasonable therapeutic alternatives and the risks associated with those alternatives, which were found to have existed in this case. The court subsequently found that the consent form did not comply with Louisiana law, and overruled the jury’s decision.

As patients, it can be hard, if not impossible, to know what a medical practitioner is obligated to tell you by law in order to gain your consent for a procedure. As we can see in this case, 10 out of 12 civilians thought that Mr. Snider had given informed consent, which the Court of Appeals then overruled. This decision emphasizes the importance of having a skillful attorney in the early stages of a trial or arbitration.

If you have any questions regarding a medical malpractice claim, you can contact the Berniard Firm for a free consultation, at 504-527-6225.