Louisiana Appellate Court Reverses Stay of Civil Proceeding in Medical Malpractice Case Based on Improper Procedures

Many states have very particular laws when it comes to medical malpractice actions, particularly when it comes to the steps you must take before you can file a civil action against the medical professionals who may have caused you damages. Louisiana is no exception, requiring plaintiffs to submit their medical malpractice allegations to a medical review panel before filing a civil claim. As seasoned Louisiana medical malpractice lawyers, we understand firsthand how important it is to ensure that you comply with all of the procedural requirements to protect your right to compensation.

A recent appellate opinion highlights how important these procedural rules can be.  The plaintiff underwent surgery in 2013 by one medical professional and received postoperative care for the surgery from another medical professional. Nearly one year after the surgery, the plaintiff filed a request for a medical review panel to determine whether the physicians committed medical malpractice. The entity responsible for overseeing this process is the Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF).

Pursuant to Louisiana laws regarding medical malpractice claims against private healthcare providers, the PCF must send a series of letters providing notice to the medical professionals that they have been named in a proceeding involving allegations of medical malpractice. The first set of letters was sent to the postoperative doctor’s business address, and the return receipt was signed. The PCF then sent what is known as the “Nine Month Letter” to the defendant’s address. This letter states that the medical review process would be terminated if the parties do not designate an attorney chairperson within one year from the date that the complaint was filed. This letter was sent to the same business address, but the US Postal Service returned the letter, indicating that the address had closed. The PCF attempted to resend the letter one additional time and received the same response. The PCF did not take any additional steps to provide the letter to the defendant healthcare provider.

On June 15, 2015, the PCF issued a letter to the defendant, stating that the plaintiff’s request for review had been dismissed due to the parties’ failure to appoint an attorney chairperson. The return receipt was executed by the defendant’s lawyer. On September 2, 2015, the plaintiff filed a petition for damages in civil court, naming the defendant and seeking damages for medical malpractice. The defendant responded by filing an Exception of Prematurity, alleging that the PCF erred in dismissing the review panel because she did not receive the Nine Month Letter. The lower court agreed with the defendant and stayed the civil proceedings as they applied to the postoperative defendant only. The plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s stay, noting that the defendant had actual notice that she was involved in a medical review panel proceeding as a result of the first set of letters that she received and acknowledged. The last letter that the defendant received and acknowledged informed her that she needed to coordinate with other parties in the action to appoint a chairman for the panel. As a result, the appellate court concluded that the defendant had sufficient notice and that the PCF acted correctly in dismissing the medical panel review proceeding when the parties failed to appoint a chairperson.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a medical malpractice incident, you may be entitled to compensation. At Dué Guidry Piedrahita Andrews Courrege L.C., we have counseled numerous Louisiana clients regarding their rights following an unfortunate, painful, and life-altering medical malpractice incident. We will handle all of the aspects of your claim, from gathering evidence to complying with procedural requirements to negotiating with insurance companies. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at (225) 929-7481 or contact us online to get started.

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