Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
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Mariah Charles was born prematurely in October 2014 at Lafayette General Medical Center (LGMC) and hospitalized there until transferred to Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Lafayette (W&C). She was released in April 2015 release. Dr. Geeta Dalal, a pediatric cardiologist with clinical privileges at both hospitals, contributed to Mariah’s care during and after Mariah’s hospitalization. While Mariah remained at LGMC, Dr. Dalal ordered and interpreted eight echocardiograms that, according to the petition, revealed abnormal findings that could cause pulmonary artery hypertension. The petition alleged Dr. Dalal took no action other than ordering additional echocardiograms. After Mariah’s transfer to W&C, Dr. Dalal interpreted three more echocardiograms, again noted abnormalities, and allegedly failed to properly diagnose or treat Mariah. On May 8, Mariah was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at W&C and examined by another pediatric cardiologist who diagnosed pulmonary artery hypertension. Mariah was transferred by helicopter to Children’s Hospital of New Orleans where medical staff confirmed the diagnosis and performed a heart catheterization procedure. Mariah’s mother, Megan Thomas (Thomas), initiated Medical Review Panel proceedings with the Patient’s Compensation Fund against Dr. Dalal and the hospital defendants, alleging medical malpractice and seeking damages for their alleged failure to properly diagnose and treat Mariah. In addition to the Medical Review Panel proceedings, Thomas filed suit against the hospitals: The Regional Health System of Acadiana, LLC, Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Inc., HCA Holdings, Inc. W&C, and LGMC. The issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review centered on allegations of negligent credentialing against Dr. Dalal, and whether those allegations fell within the scope of the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act, or alternatively, sounded in general negligence. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, and reinstated the trial court's judgment sustaining the hospital defendants' exceptions of prematurity. View "Thomas v. Regional Health System of Acadiana, LLC." on Justia Law

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Elaine Kirt died in 2010, due to complications that developed shortly after undergoing eye surgery. On September 23, 2011, her son, Neville Kirt, appearing in person and on behalf of his deceased mother and his two brothers, filed a request with the Division of Administration asking for a medical review panel to review the care provided to his mother by three defendants: Dr. Rebecca Metzinger, the attending surgeon; Dr. Theodore Strickland III, the anesthesiologist for the procedure; and Tulane Medical Center. In a reply letter to Neville, the Patient’s Compensation Fund Oversight Board (PCF) acknowledged receipt of the request; confirmed Dr. Metzinger, Dr. Strickland, and Tulane University Hospital & Clinic were qualified under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (Act); informed Kirt a filing fee of $100 per qualified defendant was due; and requested payment of $300. The notice stated the failure to pay would render the request invalid, without effect, and would not suspend the time to file suit. Days later, then appearing through counsel, the Kirts sent a second letter asking to amend its previous request, adding two additional nurses. The Kirts included a $500 check to cover filing fees. A medical review panel convened, reviewed the care provided by all named healthcare providers, and found no breach of the standard of care. The Kirts thereafter filed against the doctors and nurses. Claims against the doctors were dismissed by summary judgments because there was no proof they breached the standard of care while treating Elaine Kirt. Those judgments expressly barred allocating fault to the dismissed parties and prohibited introducing evidence at trial to establish their fault. The nurses then filed peremptory exceptions of prescription, claiming the request for a medical review panel was invalid because the Kirts failed to pay the final $100 filing fee, and prescription was not suspended for any claims. The trial court concurred with the nurses and granted an exception of prescription. The Supreme Court determined that because the Kirts paid filing fees for five of six named defendants, dismissal of one of the nurses was proper for lack of a filing fee. The Court determined the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' argument that they could not have reasonable known about the claims against two of the nurse defendants until one was deposed. Because the lower courts did not consider or decide the merits of the Kirts' basis for the exception of prescription, which could have turned on factual findings, the Supreme Court pretermitted consideration of these arguments and remanded the matter to the trial court for further disposition of the exception. View "Kirt v. Metzinger" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted writs in consolidated matters to consider whether allegations of negligent credentialing against two healthcare providers were claims that fell within the purview of Louisiana’s Medical Malpractice Act or, alternatively, sounded in general negligence. Mariah Charles was born prematurely in October 2014 at Lafayette General Medical Center (LGMC) and hospitalized there until March 2015, when she was transferred to Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Lafayette (W&C) until her release a month later. Dr. Geeta Dalal, a pediatric cardiologist with clinical privileges at both hospitals, contributed to Mariah’s care during and after Mariah’s hospitalization. While Mariah remained at LGMC, Dr. Dalal ordered and interpreted eight echocardiograms that, according to the petition, revealed abnormal findings that could cause pulmonary artery hypertension, yet, the petition alleged Dr. Dalal took no action other than ordering additional echocardiograms. After Mariah’s transfer to W&C, Dr. Dalal interpreted more echocardiograms, again noted abnormalities, and allegedly failed to properly diagnose or treat Mariah. Mariah’s mother initiated Medical Review Panel proceedings with the Patient’s Compensation Fund against Dr. Dalal and the hospital defendants alleging medical malpractice and seeking damages for their alleged failure to properly diagnose and treat Mariah. In addition to the Medical Review Panel proceedings, Mariah's mother filed suit against the hospitals, The Regional Health System of Acadiana, LLC, Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Inc., HCA Holdings, Inc., and Health Care Indemnity, Inc. (W&C), as well as Lafayette General Medical Center, Inc. and/or Lafayette General Health System, Inc. (LGMC), for damages related to Mariah’s care. The petition for damages asserted a single cause of action that LGMC and W&C were liable under general tort law because they “negligently credentialed Dr. Dalal and negligently provided her with privileges to practice” in their facilities “even though [they] knew or should have known she was not board certified in the field of pediatric cardiology.” LGMC and W&C filed dilatory exceptions of prematurity to this suit, asserting that they were qualified healthcare providers under the MMA and were entitled to have Thomas’s negligent credentialing claims presented first to a medical review panel pursuant to R.S. 40:1231.8(B)(1)(a)(i). Based on the allegations presented by the petition, the provisions of the LMMA, and application of the "Coleman" factors, the Supreme Court found the trial court correctly sustained the exceptions of prematurity raised by LGMC and W&C, therefore reversing the court of appeal's judgment and reinstated the trial court’s judgment. View "Thomas v. Regional Health System of Acadiana, LLC" on Justia Law

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In a workers’ compensation case, the claimant, Darvel Burgess, filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation after his employer, Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans (“S&WB”), refused to pay a $13,110.02 outstanding bill for prescription medications from Injured Workers Pharmacy (“IWP”). The underlying legal issue was whether the injured employee was entitled to his choice of pharmacy, or whether that right belonged to the employer under the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act (“LWCA”). The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review of this matter to resolve a split in the circuit courts of appeal on this issue. After review, the Supreme Court held the choice of pharmacy in a workers’ compensation case belongs to the employer. View "Burgess v. Sewerage & Water Bd. of New Orleans" on Justia Law

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In 2003, plaintiff Kimberly Thibodeaux became pregnant with her fourth child. Dr. James Donnell was her obstetrician-gynecologist throughout her pregnancy. During the course of the pregnancy, plaintiff was diagnosed with complete placenta previa and, in mid-November, at approximately 29 weeks pregnant, she was hospitalized for four days. Upon Dr. Donnell’s referral, she consulted a maternal/fetal medicine specialist who handled high risk pregnancies; the specialist recommended rest, limited activity, and delivery of plaintiff’s child at 36-37 weeks gestation. Plaintiff returned to the hospital with renewed vaginal bleeding and contractions. Dr. Donnell delivered plaintiff’s child via cesarean section. Shortly after the baby’s delivery, Dr. Donnell performed an emergency cesarean hysterectomy, which entailed removal of plaintiff’s uterus and cervix. After completing the hysterectomy, and while preparing to close plaintiff’s abdomen, Dr. Donnell discovered a large laceration to her bladder, which he repaired himself. After completing the surgery, Dr. Donnell ordered a test to determine if the bladder repair was successful. The test revealed that the bladder sutures were obstructing plaintiff’s ureters, the tubes that drain urine from the kidney into the bladder. This obstruction was then confirmed by a cystoscopy performed by a urologist, Dr. Robert Alexander, consulted by Dr. Donnell. The same day as the birth and cesarean hysterectomy, Dr. Alexander reopened plaintiff’s abdomen, removed the bladder sutures to free the ureters, and re-repaired the bladder laceration. Plaintiff followed up again with Dr. Alexander in late April 2004. Although her bladder healed, plaintiff continued to see Dr. Alexander for three years with irritative bladder symptoms, including urinary frequency every 30-60 minutes, urgency, urine leakage, painful urination, painful sexual intercourse, urination during sexual intercourse, excessive nighttime urination, and abdominal pain. Dr. Alexander diagnosed her with interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, and prescribed medications, none of which relieved plaintiff’s symptoms. According to Dr. Alexander, plaintiff’s diminished bladder capacity was permanent. The Supreme Court granted review of this case to determine whether the court of appeal properly assessed damages under the principles set forth in “Coco v. Winston Industries Inc.,” (341 So. 2d 332 (La. 1976)). The Court found that, because the court of appeal found manifest error in the jury’s factual findings, the appellate court should have instead performed a de novo review of damages under the principles outlined in “Mart v. Hill,” (505 So. 2d 1120 (La. 1987)). Accordingly, the Court reversed the court of appeal and remanded back to that court for reconsideration under the proper caselaw precedent. View "Thibodeaux v. Donnell" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was a res nova issue of whether a claim for negligent credentialing fell within the purview of the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (LMMA) and was, therefore, subject to its statutory cap on damages. After completion of the medical review process, plaintiffs Brandi, Veronica, and Joseph Billeaudeau proceeded in their suit against Opelousas General Hospital Authority (OGH), among other defendants, for injuries Brandi sustained allegedly arising from the medical malpractice of Dr. Kondilo Skirlis-Zavala, an independent contractor working in the OGH’s emergency department (ED). Along with their medical malpractice claims, plaintiffs specifically alleged OGH was negligent in credentialing Dr. Zavala and subsequently moved for partial summary judgment, seeking a determination that their negligent credentialing claim was not subject to the LMMA’s cap on damages. The District Court granted the motion and ultimately certified the judgment as final. The Court of Appeal affirmed on appeal. The Supreme Court found plaintiffs’ negligent credentialing claim did not fall within the provisions of the LMMA. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeal. View "Billeaudeau v. Opelousas General Hospital Authority" on Justia Law

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Both of the injured employees in these cases, Charles Morris and Charles Poole, were treated at the Lafayette Bone & Joint Clinic (“LB&J”); Morris was treated by Dr. Louis Blanda and Poole by Dr. John Cobb. Louisiana United Business SIF (“LUBA”), sent letters to LB&J and its doctors stating that LUBA would no longer pay for prescription medications directly dispensed by LB&J and directing LB&J doctors to issue future prescriptions for the instant injured employees that could be filled at local retail pharmacies. Despite these notices and subsequent denials of requests for reimbursement of dispensed prescription medications, LB&J doctors continued to dispense prescription medications to these injured employee patients throughout 2008 and to submit requests for reimbursement to LUBA. LUBA declined payment for these requests, citing its prior notice. LB&J and the treating physicians thereafter filed disputed claim forms with the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC), seeking to recover the cost of the medications dispensed, along with penalties and attorney fees. Following a joint trial in these two cases, the OWC judge ruled that the plaintiff/health care providers’ recovery for medications dispensed after the 2008 notice were nonemergency treatment dispensed without consent of the payor. Further, the OWC judge found that no penalties or attorney fees were warranted because LUBA had clearly advised the plaintiff/health care providers that no further reimbursement would be made for prescription medications dispensed by LB&J doctors after the date of the notice. The plaintiff/health care providers appealed, seeking an increase in the amount awarded and an award of penalties and attorney fees. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted writs to review the appellate court decisions, which awarded unreimbursed prescription medication costs beyond the $750 limitation set forth in LSA-R.S. 23:1142(B) and awarded penalties and attorney fees. The Court reversed the appellate court's modification of the amount awarded by the OWC, and affirmed in part, the decision to award penalties and attorney fees. View "LaFayette Bone & Joint Clinic v. Louisiana United Business SIF" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted certiorari in this matter to determine whether a retiree of the City of Slidell, plaintiff Dean Born, could continue participating in the City of Slidell's health insurance plan following the City's adoption of Ordinance No. 3493, which required each city retiree to apply for Medicare coverage upon reaching the age of sixty-five. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal's finding that the City could not terminate plaintiff's desired plan coverage and require him to accept Medicare coverage, because plaintiff retired before the effective date of the Ordinance. View "Born v. City of Slidell" on Justia Law

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Dr. Tommie Granger was a certified cardiac surgeon who had hospital privileges at defendant Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital. One of his patients was hospitalized at Cabrini and developed complications. While the doctor was called to the hospital to check on the patient, he and Cabrini staff got into a heated exchange of words within earshot of the patient. The doctor performed an in-room procedure and left. En route, the patient developed further complications, but the doctor was unable to go back to Cabrini to help. He called a colleague to perform the necessary surgery on the patient Cabrini's Board of Directors suspended Granger pending a review of the doctor's conduct regarding that patient. Finding that unprofessional behavior was a contributing factor that adversely affected the patient's care, the Board recommended that the doctor be placed on probation and to self-refer for anger management. When he did not comply, the Board revoked his privileges. The doctor sued, and ultimately won nearly $3 million in damages with respect to Cabrini's peer review proceedings. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that an award of lost income that was included in those damages was given in error, and was vacated. View "Granger v. Christus Health Central Louisiana" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted consolidated writ applications to address the majority opinion of the court of appeal which held the medical malpractice cap enunciated in La.R.S. 40:1299.42(B) was unconstitutional "to the extent it includes nurse practitioners within its ambit.” The Court reiterated its holding in "Butler v. Flint Goodrich Hospital of Dillard University," (508 U.S. 909 (1993)), which found the cap constitutional. Finding the cap to be applicable to all qualified healthcare providers under the Medical Malpractice Act, including nurse practitioners, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal in this respect. Additionally, the Court addressed two other assignments of error asserted by the Louisiana Patients' Compensation Fund and affirmed those portions of the court of appeal judgment. The effect of the Court's holding was to reinstate the trial court judgment in full. View "Oliver v. Magnolia Clinic" on Justia Law