Plaintiff Allowed Continuance to Complete Discovery Before Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment in Medical Malpractice Action

woman-in-white-shirt-standing-near-glass-window-inside-room-127873-1024x768Maybe you’ve been there. Lying on a cold surgical table. The anesthesiologist places the mask over your face and says to count backwards from one hundred. “100…99…98…” Most people don’t remember much after that. But imagine waking up from a procedure and discovering that you have no feeling in your arm. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Jason Dunn, who underwent a hemorrhoidectomy at Christus St. Francis Cabrini Surgery Center in Alexandria, Louisiana in 2012. 

The anesthesia for Dunn’s operation was administered by Dr. Francis Robichaux. Dunn filed a medical malpractice action against Dr. Robichaux claiming that he suffered an injury to his left forearm and hand as a result of Dr. Robichaux’s failing to properly position his arm during the procedure. As a result of the injury, Dunn required corrective surgery for nerve damage. Dr. Robichaux filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Dunn could not meet his burden of proof that Dr. Robichaux failed to meet the standard of care.

Dunn then filed a motion to continue so that he could depose Dr. Robichaux before responding to the motion for summary judgment. The trial court denied Dunn’s motion for a continuance and granted Dr. Robichaux’s motion for summary judgment. 

In his appeal to Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeal, Dunn argued that the trial court’s denial of his motion to continue and its grant of Dr. Robicheaux’s motion for summary judgment were an abuse of discretion. Because the trial court did not allow sufficient time for him to conduct adequate discovery, Dunn was unable to demonstrate that genuine issues of material fact existed. In addition, a comedy of errors resulted from multiple requests to the trial court on Dunn’s part to reschedule various pre-trial hearings. Ultimately, the trial court set the date to hear arguments for Dunn’s motion for a continuance after the date of the hearing on Dr. Robicheaux’s motion for summary judgment. Dunn argued that he required a deposition of Dr. Robicheaux prior to responding to the motion for summary judgment. 

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Dunn that the trial court erred by denying his motion for continuance and not allowing Dunn “adequate discovery” as permitted by Louisiana law in an action that was less than a year old. See La. C.C.P. art. 966(C). In addition, the scheduling errors by the trial court, in combination with the fact that the court failed to issue a written order to confirm the rescheduled date of the hearing on the motion for summary judgment, led the Appellate Court to reverse the trial court’s denial of Dunn’s request for continuance and grant of Dr. Robicheaux’s motion for summary judgment. The case was remanded to the trial court to allow Dunn to complete his discovery.

This case shows the seriousness with which appellate courts take a litigant’s opportunity to engage in thorough discovery. Similarly, procedural errors by the trial court can readily serve as grounds for reversal, as the rules of procedure play a crucial role in ensuring fairness in what can often be adversarial litigation. An experienced personal injury attorney who is well versed in the procedural requirements of executing a case is best positioned to achieve a favorable result for an injured plaintiff.

Additional Source:  DUNN v. ROBICHAUX

Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer:  Jasmine Cooper

Additional Berniard Law Firm Articles on Medical Malpractice Actions:  Plaintiff Fails to Provide Expert Witness to Sustain Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

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