Louisiana Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Worker’s Compensation Insurance Company in Medical Malpractice Action

Medical malpractice actions can arise in a variety of contexts. The following lawsuit demonstrates why it is essential to retain a seasoned Baton Rouge medical malpractice attorney the moment you think that you may be entitled to damages.

According to a recently published decision from the First Circuit of Louisiana, an employee was injured at work after he fell eight feet from the top of a ladder. The employee was brought to the emergency room promptly, where it was determined that he sustained injuries to his knee, hip, and elbow. The emergency room medical staff addressed his injuries, and he was discharged later that day. Shortly after his discharge, however, the hospital staff noticed that he may have suffered a hip fracture, and they recalled him to the facility, where they took additional x-rays of his elbow, which they had not x-rayed initially. The elbow laceration contained foreign material that the hospital failed to identify, and the infection contained flesh-eating bacteria. The employee nearly lost his life as a result of this aggressive infection. Although he was able to recover, the employee developed a chronic condition from the infection known as CIDP. This condition requires ongoing medical care. At the time the accident took place, the employee was 49 years old.

On review before a medical review panel, it was determined that the treating physician failed to use appropriate care when treating the employee’s injuries, but this failure was not the ultimate cause of his injuries. The doctor’s failure to order the x-ray did not change the fact that the wound was contaminated with flesh-eating bacteria. The employee and his wife filed a medical malpractice action against the physician, alleging that his malpractice caused them to incur $268,000 in expenses and that they would continue to incur financial expenses related to the malpractice.

Soon thereafter, the employee’s employer filed a petition for intervention along with its insurance company. They claimed that the injury occurred during the course and scope of the employee’s job duties and that the insurance company was paying his medical expenses pursuant to Louisiana’s workers’ compensation laws. Accordingly, the insurer claimed that any judgment in the employee’s favor should be used to offset the insurance company’s payments to the employee.

The plaintiff and the defendant doctor and his insurer ultimately reached a settlement to pay a certain sum of damages resulting in a statutory admission of liability for the malpractice, and reserving the plaintiffs’ rights to claim excess damages from the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF).  The plaintiffs dismissed their action against these defendant with prejudice, and the worker’s compensation insurance company sought to recover any excess damages from the PCF. The PCF argued that since the plaintiff dismissed the underlying claim, the insurance company could not proceed with additional litigation against the PCF. The trial court agreed and dismissed the matter with prejudice. In reaching this decision, the trial court noted that under Louisiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, natural persons have the right to seek excess damages from the PCF, and due to its status as a juridical person, the worker’s compensation insurance company could not proceed.

The worker’s compensation insurer appealed and the court of appeal ultimately concluded that the lower court did not commit any reversible error in dismissing the action, noting also that the defendant never admitted liability in relation to the amounts paid by the worker’s compensation insurance company.

Medical malpractice matters can be incredibly complicated, especially if a health insurance company or worker’s compensation insurer intervenes in the lawsuit. At Dué Guidry Piedrahita Andrews LC, we have assisted numerous medical malpractice victims with determining whether they can bring a lawsuit against the individual responsible for their injuries or whether their appropriate remedy is workers’ compensation. Our seasoned team of litigators will stand by you throughout the process and ensure that you understand your legal rights and options. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at (225) 929-7481 or contact us online to get started.

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