When you go to the hospital, you expect to be taken care of by a qualified physician who properly diagnoses you. If that doesn’t happen, tragedy can strike. And if tragedy strikes, you want the responsible partie(s) to be held responsible by being liable for damages. But does the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (MMA) limit liability in these cases?
Tragedy struck for the Billeaudaus, whose daughter Brandi suffered a stroke and ultimately died. When Brandi Billeaudau collapsed, her parents transported her to Opelousas General Hospital in Opelousas. There, the emergency room doctor, who lacked the required experience and training required by the hospital, improperly diagnosed Brandi with a focal motor seizure instead of a stroke. Her parents knew better and requested a transfer to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital (OLOL) in Lafayette, where she got the necessary treatment, but that was too little too late.
The Billeaudau’s brought a lawsuit against Opelousas General to hold them liable for giving credentials to the doctor. They contended that since granting credentials is an administrative rather than a medical decision, it should not be subject to the limits set in the MMA. In order to determine whether the wrong in this case was medical (and subject to limits in the MMA) or administrative (and not subject to the MMA), the court analyzed:
- Whether the wrong was treatment related;
- Whether the wrong required expert medical evidence to determine whether a standard of care was breached;
- Whether the act or omission involved assessing the patient’s condition;
- Whether the incident occurred within a physician-patient relationship or within the scope of activities a hospital is licensed to perform;
- Whether the injury would have occurred if the patient had not sought treatment; and
- Whether there was an intentional tort.
The court found that matters of credentialing physicians can be medically related but were not in this case as this particular treatment did not need to be reviewed in order to reveal negligence. While expert testimony was required, it was of a different type than is typical in most routine malpractice cases as it involves simply analyzing qualifications and credentials. Determining whether a doctor has adequate credentials has nothing to do with assessing a patient’s conditions. Credentialing is within the scope of activities a hospital is licensed to perform. As well, this injury would not have occurred if Brandi did not seek treatment. No intentional tort was involved. Because most factors weigh against considering this a matter of MMA, the court held that physician credentialing in this scenario was not subject to the limits of the MMA law.
However, this was not cut and dry. The dissent believed that the application of factors 2, 4, 5, and 6 led to the conclusion that this was a subject covered under the MMA.
The moral of the story is that if you have experienced poor treatment from an unqualified physician, you may be able to recover more than the limits of the MMA. However, that is not a certain thing.
Additional Sources: Billeaudeau v. Opelousas General Hospital Authority
Written By Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: George Thurlow
Additional Berniard Law Firm Blog Posts on Medical Malpractice: Plaintiff Cannot Bring Medical Malpractice Claim Against Doctor Due to Untimely Filing of Lawsuit; Plaintiff Fails to Provide Expert Witness to Sustain Medical Malpractice Suit; Doctor Found Liable for Malpractice For Failing to Answer or Return Patient’s Calls