Navigating Medical Malpractice Claims: Understanding Legal Requirements to Seek Compensation for Harm Done by a Doctor

medical_ultrasound_monitor_doctor-768x1024When you go to the doctor, you expect they will help you feel better. However, if your doctor worsens your condition, it is essential to understand the legal requirements for bringing a medical malpractice claim. Otherwise, you find yourself unable to recover.

Milton Harris visited Dr. Breaud, an ophthalmologist, after experiencing difficulties with his vision. Breaud performed multiple procedures on Harris, including laser procedures and surgeries. Unfortunately, following a surgical vitrectomy, Harris suffered a cardiac arrest and had to be hospitalized in the ICU.

 Just under a year later, Harris requested a Medical Review Panel to evaluate his medical malpractice claim from the treatment his ophthalmologist provided. The panel found there was no evidence that Breaud did not meet the required standard of care and pointed to improvements in Harris’ vision. Harris and his wife then filed a lawsuit against Breaud for medical malpractice and negligence. 

Their petition pointed to procedures performed from May 2009 to October 2010. Breaud responded with an exception for prematurity for all claims besides those related to the December 29, 2009. He claimed the other procedures had yet to be brought before the Medical Review Panel, as required under La. R.S. 40:1231.8. Harris and his wife agreed and dismissed all claims related to care besides that provided on December 29, 2009. 

Harris then filed a second request for a Medical Revenue Panel for the other procedures. This request expired before the panel rendered an opinion. Then, the Harrises filed a second lawsuit. Breaud argued that because two lawsuits were pending involving the same transaction and occurrence and the same parties, the current lawsuit should be dismissed under La. C.C.P art. 531. He also argued the procedures at issue in the second Medical Review panel occurred more than three years prior, so it was invalid. The trial court found in favor of Breaud. The Harrises appealed. 

When reviewing a judgment, the appellate court must affirm the judgment if it is reasonable, given the record as a whole. Here, the appellate court found the trial court’s judgment dismissed all claims related to the procedures on December 29, 2009. Based on the appellate court’s review of the written judgment, the judgment was not inconsistent with the trial court’s ruling in opening court. Secondly, the appellate court agreed that it was appropriate to dismiss the case under La. C.C.P art. 531 because there were two lawsuits pending involving the same transaction and occurrence and the same parties. The appellate court pointed to the same parties in both lawsuits (the Harrises and Breaud) and the allegations related to the same medical treatments. Finally, the appellate court found that based on the face of the allegations, the procedures Breaud performed that were at issue occurred more than three years before the time of the second Medical Review Panel, so too long of a time had passed for the Harrises to be able to bring a valid claim. The Harrises did not present evidence of anything that would suspend this three-year requirement for bringing a claim, such as being unable to discover the alleged malpractice. Therefore, the appellate court agreed with the trial court’s dismissal of the claims against Breaud and ordered the Harrises to pay all costs of the appeal. 

If your doctor has caused you harm, it is essential to consult with a good attorney who can help you comply with the legal requirements for pursuing a malpractice claim. This can include ensuring you have the required prerequisite Medical Review Panel and comply with applicable time requirements for bringing a claim.

Additional Sources: Milton Lee Harris and Lisa Harris v. Stephen M. Breaud, M.D.

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Time Requirements for Filing Medical Malpractice Claim: Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Tossed Due to Louisiana’s Prescriptive Period

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