Medical malpractice lawsuits concern a wide range of different types of injuries and even death. This Louisiana case involved a claim brought by a woman who believed that the hospital and its staff acted negligently, causing her to suffer a compression fracture of the lumbar spine. Both the district court and the appellate court ruled in favor of the hospital, finding that no medical malpractice had occurred because the women failed to provide enough evidence to prove that the hospital or the hospital staff acted negligently and breached the standard of care.
On December 2011, Jane H. Clattenberg was admitted into Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, because of her heart condition. During Clattenberg’s time at the hospital, she did not suffer a compression fracture of the lumbar spine. During an ordered CT scan, a hospital assistant dropped Clattenberg when they attempted to transport her from the stretcher to the CT scan table. Clattenberg alleged that the hospital assistant breached its standard of care when they were transporting her because the drop fractured her spine. The drop caused Clattenberg to extend her hospital stay along with pervasive mental and physical pain and suffering. After Clattenberg was discharged, she continued to suffer mental and physical pain and suffering. Clattenberg’s husband also claimed loss of consortium because of the hospital’s negligence.
Clattenberg brought a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging malpractice. The Medical Review Panel (“MRP”) did not find anything in the record that indicated that the hospital staff breached their standard of care when they transported Clattenberg to the CT scan table. Though MRP was doubtful of Clattenberg’s allegations, they concluded that even if Clattenberg’s statements were true, it is unlikely that the drop caused her spinal compression fracture.
The hospital filed a summary judgment motion, reasoning that the case should be dismissed because there were no genuine issues of material fact. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice in favor of the hospital, which means the case is dismissed forever, because there was only a distant possibility that the drop caused her injury which is not enough to establish its burden of proof at trial. Clattenberg then appealed to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.
When reviewing whether summary judgment is appropriate, the standard of review is de novo, which means no deference is given to the ruling of the lower court. Samaha v. Rau, 977 So. 2d 880, 882 (La. 2008). The burden of showing summary judgment was not appropriate remains on the moving party. La. C.C.P. art 966. However, if the moving party is not responsible for the burden of proof at trial, all the movant has to do is show that there is factual support lacking for one or more of the adverse party’s essential elements. If after this is shown, the adverse party fails to bring forth evidence that provides the needed factual support, there is no genuine issue as to material fact, and summary judgment should be granted. Generally, expert testimony is used to establish the applicable standard of care and whether that standard had been breached, unless the reasonable layperson can obviously infer the negligence. McGrew v. Waguespack, 168 So. 3d 690 (La. Ct. App. 2014).
On appeal, the hospital provided expert testimony to rebut the claim that the drop that may have occurred in Clattenberg’s transfer to the CT scan table could have caused her injury, a conclusion also highlighted by MRP’s findings. As a result, Clattenberg’s allegation failed to satisfy the preponderance of evidence standard and to prove a reasonable possibility that the hospital breached its standard of care. Further, the hospital provided additional evidence, such as medical records, affidavits of medical staffs that transferred Clattenberg, and deposition from the treating physicians and Clattenberg herself.
Once the hospital proved its burden, then the burden shifted to Clattenberg to show that the hospital breached the standard of care and that there is a causal connection between the breach and her injury. Clattenberg failed to provide any new evidence to support her claim. Clattenberg suggested that one of the MRP’s members deposition testimony supported her claim, but that member testified in court that the drop would have caused the injury if, prior to falling, the patient was in a perpendicular position, a position that Clattenberg was not in.
Because Clattenberg failed to provide that there are factual issues of disputes, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the hospital and affirmed the district court’s ruling.
A good lawyer will ensure that all the necessary evidence and support for your claims is present before taking the case to court. Otherwise, your claims against the hospital or the medical professional for medical malpractice will face summary judgment and be dismissed for lack of factual support. To prevent your claim from being dismissed before you have a chance to fully argue it, an experienced lawyer is crucial.
Additional Sources: JANE H. CLATTENBERG AND ALBERT CLATTENBERG VERSUS OUR LADY OF THE LAKE HOSPITAL, INC. D/B/A OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER AND JOHN DOE AND JAMES DOE, TWO UNKNOWN ORDERLIES IN ITS EMPLOY
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Jenny Liao
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