In some states, the legislative branch creates certain protections for classes of residents. These protections can come in the form of protective presumptions, statutory liability limitations, or any other form which the legislative branch thinks is necessary for its state. In most states, statutes protect those in the medical field from unlimited liability. The reality is that these protections are necessary in order to protect doctors and hospitals from being involved in numerous civil cases. If doctors could be sued freely, chances are that the cost of liability insurance would sky rocket. If this happens, medical professionals would be wary to establish a practice in that particular state. Needless to say, this would create a huge crisis in the medical field.
These protections generally do not apply if there has been an egregious act by a doctor. Moreover, these protections do not apply if a doctor has intentionally committed an act against a patient. In Louisiana, for a general claim of malpractice, the award of general damages is limited to $500,000. This protection exists for doctors, hospitals, and some types of nurse practitioners. However, if an exception to the statutes application exists, the shield will not be helpful to medical practitioners.
In a recent case Joe Oliver vs. Megnoila Clinic, the protection did not apply to a nurse practitioner. The statute involved was expanded to include nurse practitioners of the type the defendant was. However, one of the requirements was that the nurse practioner consult with a medical doctor on issues before giving medical advice. Susan Duhon, one of the defendants in the case, was a nurse practitioner. She was seeing the Taylor Oliver who was an infant at the time that she was first brought to Ms. Duhon’s office. Taylor was brought in because she was crying a lot and the parents could not figure out what the problem was.
Ultimately, Ms. Duhon rendered an incorrect prognosis and sent the Olivers on their way. In fact, the Olivers returned to the office on a number of occasions because Taylor would simply not get better. Every time the Olivers came to her office, Ms. Duhon made a diagnosis without consulting with a medical doctor, as was required by Louisiana law. Eventually, the Olivers took Taylor to the hospital to see the doctor that Ms. Duhon was supposed to be consulting with all along. The doctor referred the case to a children’s hospital where the Olivers’ learned that Taylor had neuroblastoma which is a form of cancer that originates from the nerve tissue. It was also determined that Taylor showed signs of bruising around the eye, which is a tell-tale sign of the disease. However, this was not diagnosed until much later after the disease began to manifest.
This topic will be continued in our next entry.