Having a sick child can be a nerve-racking time. Having a sick infant is even scarier as you, as a parent, feel helpless. In these times, caregivers turn to the experts in medical centers to help. But, unfortunately, a hospital can’t always help before it is too late.
In June of 2012, 13-month-old Landon Lee was transported via ambulance to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center (OLOL) due to vomiting and respiratory distress. Landon was treated in the emergency room by Dr. Boudreaux, where he was determined to have cardiac issues. He was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at OLOL. Later the same morning, Landon Lee was transferred via helicopter to Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans to be placed in an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation unit (ECMO). Within an hour of arriving at Ochsner, Landon died. The autopsy determined 13 month-old Landon passed from cardiomegaly or an enlarged heart.
Landon’s mother filed a lawsuit on her behalf and for her deceased son against both OLOL and Dr. Boudreaux, the pediatrician and emergency room physician who treated Landon at OLOL. Lee asserts in her claim that Boudreaux and OLOL failed to properly care for and treat her son while at OLOL. Along with the allegations in her lawsuit, Lee attached an affidavit from Dr. Meliones, a board-certified pediatric cardiologist specializing in pediatric critical care, to support Ms. Lee’s negligence claim.
Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and Dr. Boudreaux filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted. Ms. Lee appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in disregarding Dr. Meliones’s affidavit from evidence when advising the motions for summary judgment.
In Louisiana, the grounds for summary judgment are governed by Louisiana’s Code of Civil Procedure, article 966. La. C.C.P. art. 966. Summary judgment is “a procedural device used when there is no genuine issue of material fact for all or part of the relief prayed for by a litigant.” Further, in medical malpractice lawsuits, a plaintiff has the burden of proving the applicable standard of care, a violation of the applicable standard of care, and a connection between the negligence alleged and the injury alleged. La R.S. art. 9:2794. Penn v. Care Point Partners of Louisiana, L.L.C. specifies in medical malpractice, expert testimony is generally introduced to establish the standard of care and its potential breach. Penn v. CarePoint Partners of Louisiana, However, Penn also states that expert testimony is not required when negligence is so obvious that any layperson could infer negligence without the expert testimony.
The negligence alleged by Ms. Lee in her son’s death was not such that a layperson could infer negligence without the guidance of expert testimony. To support her claims, Ms. Lee used an affidavit from Dr. Meliones. However, as explained through Penn v. CarePoint Partners of Louisiana, L.L.C., experts are not qualified to offer opinions regarding the standard of care outside their requisite knowledge, skill, training, or education.
Dr. Meliones has a different specialty and knowledge base than Dr. Boudreaux. Further, Dr. Meliones needed to have the qualifications as to the standard of care or breach thereof for a general hospital such as Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. Accordingly, the appellate court found the lower court did not abuse its discretion in excluding Dr. Meliones’s affidavit from evidence, and was correct in granting OLOL and Dr. Boudreaux’s motion for summary judgment.
In the grief of losing a child or a family member, many loved ones turn to those who failed to give proper care in search of relief. Medical malpractice lawsuits need to plea sufficient facts to survive pre-trial motions and get their day in court. Without sufficient evidence, cases may fail, and families will not get the closure they need to grieve their lost loved ones.
Additional Sources: AMJEL LEE INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR CHILD, LANDON LEE (DECEASED) V. DR. MICHAEL QUINN, DR. KELCHI N. IHEAGWARA, DR. RUFUS HIZON, III, DR. SHANNON BOUDREAUX, AND OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Abigail Varney
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