Imagine an injury on a ladder, lawnmower, boat, or other manufactured product. The product might appear defective; however, is defectiveness sufficient to win a lawsuit against the manufacturer? Under Louisiana law, to prevail in a lawsuit alleging medical injuries from a defective product, a plaintiff must provide adequate medical evidence to support that the injuries likely resulted from the defective product. This is referred to as “medical causation.” Without establishing medical causation, you may not be able to recover for your injuries.
Craig Andrews was a river pilot. He injured his hip after climbing a ladder that he alleged was negligently rigged. After that, he and his wife sued Lomar Shipping, alleging that his injuries resulted from climbing their negligently rigged ladder.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 in favor of Lomar Shipping. Summary judgment means that the court ruled in favor of a party (here, Lomar Shipping) before trial. The District Court explained that Mr. Andrews did not submit adequate medical evidence to support that climbing the ladder he alleged was negligently rigged caused his injuries. Therefore, summary judgment was warranted because there was no genuine issue for trial.
Under Louisiana law, a plaintiff must provide medical evidence to establish a reasonable possibility of a causal connection between an accident and the resulting injury. See Housley v. Cerise, 579 So. 2d 973 (La. 1991). In his case against Lomar Shipping, Mr. Andrews had provided testimony from some medical doctors. However, the District Court found that their testimony did not establish that Mr. Andrew’s injury was more likely than not caused by the ladder, as required under Louisiana law. The District Court found that the only evidence of medical causation was two doctors’ suggestion that Andrews’ hip surgery was necessary due to wear and tear of his prior hip replacement. One doctor acknowledged that he lacked sufficient information to render a medical causation opinion. Therefore, the District Court found a complete absence of evidence to support medical causation. Mr. Andrews and his wife then appealed the District Court’s ruling, arguing that summary judgment should not have been granted in this complex matter.
The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the District Court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Lomar Shipping. The Court of Appeal pointed to the fact that it was undisputed that Mr. Andrews had experienced substantial hip issues before the incident with the ladder. Furthermore, no medical expert believed Andrews’ left hip injury was more likely than not caused by the ladder. As a result, the Court of Appeal agreed with the District Court’s finding that Mr. Andrews did not provide sufficient evidence to support his claim that the incident with the ladder contributed to his injuries.
Suppose you are considering or already involved with a lawsuit involving injuries. In that case, it is essential to consult an excellent attorney to ensure that you provide sufficient medical evidence to establish medical causation. As seen here, providing testimony from medical doctors is not always enough. If you fail to establish medical causation, you will likely be empty-handed, like Mr. Andrews.
Additional Sources: Andrews v. Lomar Shipping
Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Causation: Louisiana Man’s Medical Malpractice Claim Falls On Deaf Ears For Lack of Causation