When hurt, many people begin stressing over who to hire to represent their interests. There are thousands of lawyers offering their services and one case, in particular, is a helpful guide to understanding how important picking the right one is. In Horton v. Beck Partners, L.L.C., the claims of a psychiatric patient, Denise Horton, were dismissed because she did not first submit her claims to a medical review panel. In fact, Horton did not characterize her claims as medical malpractice and thereby appealed the decision. Rather, Horton sued for general negligence which is a cause of action under general tort law.
However, the court determined the case did fall under the scope of the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act, hereinafter ‘Malpractice Act’, which allowed the defendant physician to invoke an ‘exception of prematurity.’ This exception is a procedural mechanism utilized by healthcare providers in the event medical malpractice claims are not first presented to a medical review panel. To elaborate, if a healthcare provider is sued and an action commenced in a court of law, this exception will be maintained and the lawsuit dismissed if the plaintiff fails to first present the claims to a medical review panel.
This outcome is dictated by the Malpractice Act which states that a medical review panel must first review any and all claims against healthcare providers before any action is taken through a court of law. Consequently, in Horton v. Beck Partners, L.L.C., both the trial court and the court of appeals maintained the physician’s exception of prematurity, since a medical review panel was not first consulted, and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.
The Malpractice Act, ß 40:1299.41, provides useful definitions for further understanding by any who wish to interpret the Act. For example, ‘malpractice’ is defined very clearly within section (A)(8). Malpractice is any breach of contract or an unintentional tort due to services provided by a healthcare official or services that were not provided when they should have been. Some examples given include untimely services given, any procurement of blood or such components taken or given, including tissue, medicines, drugs, that are done incorrectly, or any defects or failures from implanted prosthetic devices. It also notes that any legal duty that is not fulfilled even if just during training or any supervision also falls within the scope of this act. Further, ‘healthcare’ is defined under section (A)(9) and applies during any confinement, treatment and general care that is given to a patient by a provider and any and all acts that might entail.
The Supreme Court provided a six part test comprising six Coleman factors for determining whether negligent acts of a health care provider fall under the Malpractice Act: (1) whether the issue related to treatment or failure to provide a professional skill, (2) whether expert medical evidence is necessary for determining if the standard of care was breached, (3) whether the omission or act involves assessing the patient’s condition, (4) if a physician-patient relationship existed or the act was within the scope of activities a hospital is licensed to perform, (5) whether the injury would have occurred without the treatment, and (6) whether the alleged tort was intentional. Coleman v. Deno, 813 So. 2d 303 at 315-316 Utilizing these Coleman factors, the court determined that the physician’s conduct fell under the jurisdiction of the Malpractice Act rather than general tort law.
The importance of this case to the general public is simple: by not hiring a competent, well versed attorney, you may end up having your case thrown out and not receiving the compensation you deserve. An attorney with extensive experience in personal injury law may, literally, be the difference between financial compensation and nothing. Contact our offices today for more information on your legal rights if you have been injured by your doctor’s improper actions.