Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

When one enters the hospital in times of a medical emergency, they hope that they will receive the highest standard of care possible. Often there can be uncertainty, however, as to what the threshold is for the highest acceptable standard of care. In an emergency, it can also become unclear what treatment was received exactly.

 What does “not charted, not done” mean, and how does it apply to medical negligence cases in Louisiana? This very issue arose recently at the Louisiana Court of Appeals recently when the testimony of a doctor at Lakeland medical center conflicted with his documented treatment of a patient who subsequently died. 

Wonica Royal died on April 1, 2003, after she had been discharged from Lakeland hospital. When Ms. Royal presented to the emergency room there had been no nurse at the triage desk. Dr. Juan Blanch, an emergency room physician, was at the desk, however, and he performed the assessment of Ms. Royal. Ms. Royal was administered breathing treatment and antibiotics and discharged on the same day in “good condition.” The next day she died of a pulmonary embolism. 

hospital_ward_hospital_medical_0-1024x683Sickness often begets a doctor’s visit, and sometimes severe illness calls for a trip to the emergency room. So when parents, David Pitts, Jr. and Kenyetta Gurley, arrived at Hood Memorial Hospital in Amite City, Louisiana, with their daughter, Lyric, it’s likely neither expected to leave there without their daughter’s health restored.

 Upon arrival at the emergency room, Lyric’s mother described her daughter’s symptoms as breathing “funny” and faster than usual and disclosed that she had thrown up twice earlier in the day. The hospital recorded that “Lyric had not had any liquid intake since 4:00 PM, and no output (i.e., dirty diaper) since 2:00 PM.” Around 7:30 PM, after Dr. Rhoda Jones (“Dr. Jones”) examined Lyric, she noted Lyric’s “shortness of breath” and “wheezing” in her lungs. Dr. Jones’s initial diagnosis was “asthma, possible pneumonia, and RSV,” so she ordered a chest x-ray, CBC (complete blood count), CMP (comprehensive metabolic panel), and a test for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). The results of the chest x-ray came back normal, and the RSV test came back negative. Nevertheless, one of the nurses tending to Lyric had asked Dr. Jones at least three times if Lyric could be taken to another facility. Still, Dr. Jones insisted that no one would admit Lyric with negative or normal lab results and no fever.

 Lyric stayed at the hospital overnight. However, by 2:30 AM, Dr. Jones was called in to check on Lyric, and at approximately 3:00 PM, while she was holding Lyric, the 7-month-old baby had a seizure and stopped breathing. About an hour later, Lyric was declared dead, and the cause of death was listed as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).

late filed medical malpractice claim louisianaDeadlines matter in all areas of life, but in the legal world, they can determine whether a lawsuit will move forward or even get started. In Louisiana, a prescriptive period is a window of time for legal action to be brought and enforced. Depending on the kind of claim, the prescriptive period may be longer or shorter than you think.

On April 29, 2011, Hector Alonso was scheduled for cataract surgery at Tulane-Lakeside Hospital. During the surgery, Alonso claimed to have awoken from anesthesia. In extreme pain, he wanted to have the surgery stopped but claimed that instead, the medical staff fought him—causing him to dislodge and swallow a tooth—held him down, put tape over his mouth, and continued to operate.

On July 14, 2016, Alonso filed a request for medical review with the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund (LPCF). He named his surgeon, two nurses, the certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and University Healthcare System L.C. defendants. He alleged that they committed medical malpractice by failing to properly treat him, using improper procedures and inadequate safety measures, restricting his freedom, and committing assault and battery. He had previously filed a complaint for malpractice with LPCF in 2012 and a petition for damages in District Court but only named University Healthcare System L.C. and Dr. Ebrahim as defendants. LPCF dismissed found no breach of the standard of care in 2014, and on January 21, 2016, the District Court dismissed Alonso’s case.

Louisiana medical malpraticeMedical procedures are never an enjoyable process. However, the process becomes even more miserable when recuperation is delayed because of infections. Darrin Coulon found himself in this situation after receiving shoulder surgery in 2011 from Dr. Mark Juneau at the West Bank Surgery Center. His recovery became even more difficult as he navigated the complex procedural requirements of filing a medical malpractice claim. 

After receiving shoulder surgery, an infection required Coulon to undergo numerous additional surgeries and treatments. As a result, Coulon and his wife filed a Request for Medical Review Panel, alleging medical malpractice. Specifically, Coulon alleged that (1) the Surgery Center failed to develop, maintain, and enforce appropriate policies to prevent infections and (2) the Surgery Center was liable under a theory of respondeat superior for its employees’ actions. The Medical Review Panel found no evidence that the Surgery Center or doctor failed to meet the required standard of care or did not maintain appropriate policies and procedures to prevent infections.

Coulon and his wife subsequently filed a lawsuit for damages against the Surgery Center. In addition to the claims previously raised for the Medical Review Panel, they added that the Surgery Center failed to supervise and train the nurses who treated Coulon. The Surgery Center responded by filing a partial exception of prematurity, claiming that the claims that they failed to train and supervise the nurses were premature because Coulon and his wife did not previously raise those claims in the Medical Review Panel complaint. Coulon and his wife argued that the language in the prior complaint was sufficiently broad to include the additional claims in their subsequent lawsuit for damages. 

medical malpractice louisiana vaccineLawsuits are filed every day. However, not all of these lawsuits are worth the attention of the courts. Courts are already swamped with dozens and dozens of cases on their dockets and they cannot afford–both monetarily and temporally–to hear every case that comes to their courtrooms. As a result, courts allow parties to file a motion for summary judgment, which allows courts to drop a lawsuit if there is no issue of material fact among the parties. 

Petrie and Bertha Thompson’s one-year-old daughter Jessica Thompson passed away three days after being taken to The Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, L.L.C. (The Center) in Thibodaux. Jessica was examined by The Center’s nurse practitioner Gaudin. The Thompsons accused Gaudin of providing substandard care to Jessica. More specifically, the Thompsons alleged that Gaudin administered immunizations that should not have been administered. The Thompsons argued that Jessica passed away because of these immunizations and sued Gaudin, the Center, and HP, who was Gaudin’s alleged supervisor. 

A medical review panel reviewed the Thompsons’ claims against HP and The Center and found that there was no breach of the applicable standard of care and that the administered immunizations were appropriate for Jessica. After the release of the panel’s findings, Gaudin filed a motion for summary judgment. The Thompsons responded with an affidavit of Dr. Robert S. Chabon who opined that, contrary to the panel’s findings, that Gaudin’s administration of the vaccinations did indeed cause Jessica’s death. Gaudin argued that Dr. Chabon’s affidavit was untimely, not in proper form, and conclusory and thus the Trial Court should not accept the affidavit into evidence. Though the Trial Court accepted the affidavit, it found the affidavit to be insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact and thus granted Gaudin’s motion for summary judgment. 

blue-and-silver-stetoscope-40568-1-1024x683Medical malpractice claims often present complicated issues involving hard to understand medical principles. Such lawsuits can become further complicated by questions of whether hospitals, in addition to the doctors themselves, can be held liable for a failure to act that results in a patient’s death. This is the question faced by parties in a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice and negligence that followed the death of a patient initially treated at the Richardson Medical Center Hospital (“RMC”) in Rayville, Louisiana. 

On the afternoon of May 28, 2011, Cleveland Coward was admitted to RMC for head injuries that resulted from a fight in which he was hit by his opponent several times with a steel pipe. Coward was examined by the attending emergency room doctor, Dr. David Lifshutz. After examining Coward, Dr. Lifshutz ordered a CT scan of Coward’s head. After being treated for a cut to his forehead and loss of consciousness, approximately 50 minutes after arriving at the emergency room, Coward underwent the CT scan. The images from the CT scan were sent to a radiologist located off-site. Coward subsequently underwent an alcohol screening that indicated that he was highly intoxicated. A few hours later, Coward was discharged and walked out of the emergency room under police custody. Coward’s discharge instructions did not mention the CT scan or any follow up procedures, but only told Coward to follow up with his primary care doctor in seven days, to change his wound dressings every 24 hours, and to take Tylenol as needed for pain. 

The radiologist who reviewed Coward’s CT scan found that there was some tissue swelling, but no evidence of acute traumatic brain injury or visible fractures. However, the radiologist concluded his report with the statement “Urgent Finding:  Pneumocephalus,” which refers to bubbles of gas or air within the cranial cavity. Neither Dr. Lifshutz nor another staff member communicated the results of the CT scan to Coward or the Richland Detention Center, where Coward was taken after his release from RMC.

woman-in-white-shirt-standing-near-glass-window-inside-room-127873-1024x768Maybe you’ve been there. Lying on a cold surgical table. The anesthesiologist places the mask over your face and says to count backwards from one hundred. “100…99…98…” Most people don’t remember much after that. But imagine waking up from a procedure and discovering that you have no feeling in your arm. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Jason Dunn, who underwent a hemorrhoidectomy at Christus St. Francis Cabrini Surgery Center in Alexandria, Louisiana in 2012. 

The anesthesia for Dunn’s operation was administered by Dr. Francis Robichaux. Dunn filed a medical malpractice action against Dr. Robichaux claiming that he suffered an injury to his left forearm and hand as a result of Dr. Robichaux’s failing to properly position his arm during the procedure. As a result of the injury, Dunn required corrective surgery for nerve damage. Dr. Robichaux filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Dunn could not meet his burden of proof that Dr. Robichaux failed to meet the standard of care.

Dunn then filed a motion to continue so that he could depose Dr. Robichaux before responding to the motion for summary judgment. The trial court denied Dunn’s motion for a continuance and granted Dr. Robichaux’s motion for summary judgment. 

74-Email-06_24_19-picture-1024x639The statute of limitations, by definition, is the timeframe set by a state or federal legislative body in the creation of a law which governs when a party must file a claim to enforce his or her right or seek redress after injury or damage. The statute of limitations on personal injury claims varies from state to state. The standard statute of limitations for personal injury cases is three years from the day the injury or damage, in which the claim arises, took place. Mr. Landis J. Camp’s appeal from the Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for the State of Louisiana against Dr. Chris J. DiGrado and Lammico Insurance Company exemplifies the vital importance of filing a personal injury claim within the statutory period of a given state.

In 2002, Mr. Camp injured his shoulder while working on a job in Maryland. Although Mr. Camp immediately began compensation proceedings with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission, he did not seek treatment from Dr. DiGrado until 2005. Dr. DiGrado performed two shoulder surgeries on Mr. Camp. The first surgery took place in January 2010, followed by a second surgery in March 2011. At this point, Mr. Camp had little improvement of his injuries and was aware that Dr. DiGrado performed his surgeries negligently. However, Mr. Camp did not file a lawsuit against Dr. DiGrado and the insurance company until 2015, after the statute of limitations had expired for his personal injury medical malpractice claim. Therefore, the district court dismissed Mr. Camp’s claims against Dr. DiGrado and the insurance company for failure to state a claim within the statutory period. Mr. Camp subsequently appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Louisiana, which ultimately affirmed the district court ruling and dismissed Mr. Camp’s claim because he did not file his claim more than three years after he ceased treatment with Dr. DiGrado. See Camp v. Digrado, 216 So. 3d 1055 (La. Ct. App. 2016).

 In Louisiana, La. R.S. 9:5628(A) sets the statute of limitations, or “prescriptive period,” for personal injury resulting from patient care, including medical malpractice claims. According to this Louisiana law, a personal injury claim arising from patient care must be filed “within one year from the date of the alleged act omission, or neglect; however…claims shall be filed at the latest within a period of three years from the date of the alleged act, omission, or neglect.”

bed-empty-equipments-floor-236380-1024x678Medical Malpractice lawsuits can be extremely complicated and fact-specific. The general Louisiana law requires claims to be brought within one year of treatment. The Louisiana law also distinguishes liability based on intentional actions from negligent actions. The following case illustrates how in-depth a medical malpractice claim can become.

The Plaintiff, Mr. John Mack Evans, appealed the dismissal of his medical malpractice suit against Heritage Manor Stratmore Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (Heritage Manor). Mr. Evans was admitted to Heritage Manor by his treating physician, Dr. Robert Hernandez, after suffering a stroke and becoming paralyzed on one side. Dr. Hernandez was the facility’s medical director and determined that Mr. Evans required changing often to avoid developing sores. Dr. Hernandez also ordered speech, physical and occupational therapy. Ms. Samantha Edwards, a Certified Nursing Assistant, administered care to Mr. Evans and struck him in the eye when his resistance led to him hitting her. Ms. Edwards was terminated immediately. Mr. Evans suffered bruises and bleeding around his eye and nose. When Mr. Evans became abusive, he was transferred to Brentwood Hospital to see a psychiatrist.

The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHH) determined that Heritage Manor hired Ms. Edwards despite a conviction for battery and without checking her references. A medical review panel determined that Heritage Manor was partly responsible for placing Ms. Edwards in the role that injured Mr. Evans. Mr. Evans filed a lawsuit for medical malpractice against Heritage Manor for (1) physical injuries; (2) breach of fiduciary duty; (3) failure to provide adequate care; and (4) failure to supervise and train employees. Because Mr. Evans filed his complaint two years after he sustained injuries, Heritage Manor argued that his lawsuit was untimely. Heritage Manor further argued that injuries from battery do not fall under medical malpractice protections.

action-adult-affection-eldery-339620-1024x576The already tragic loss of a parent is only made worse when you believe that the death should have been prevented. Such was the case for Chester Domingue when his ninety-four-year-old mother, Onelia, passed away as the result of a fall in her nursing home, Camelot. While a medical provider cannot anticipate every danger that a client could encounter, what reasonable precautions does Louisiana law require to prevent as many dangers as possible?

Mrs. Domingue, like most ninety-four-year-olds, fell a lot. To be exact, she fell at least twenty-seven times while a resident of Camelot. After many of those falls, the Camelot staff put in place different protocols and precautions. Since Mrs. Domingue used a wheelchair, many of these protocols centered around not letting her get in and out of the wheelchair alone, especially when she needed to go to the bathroom. Yet, she still sometimes tried to use the bathroom by herself. When she did so on April 17, 2014, she hit her head, fracturing her spine and giving her a concussion. Less than a month later, she passed away from those injuries.

In the aftermath, her son wondered why his mother was left by herself to go to the bathroom in the first place. He brought a lawsuit against Camelot alleging medical malpractice for their inattentiveness to his mother’s potential danger. Camelot petitioned to have the case dismissed via summary judgment. They believed that they didn’t break any laws in how they treated Mrs. Domingue. The Trial Court didn’t think that Mr. Domingue had shown that there was a real question of material fact as to if Camelot was negligent. As a result, the Trial Court granted Camelot summary judgment and dismissed the case. 

Contact Information