Louisiana Appellate Court Upholds Summary Judgment for Physician in Spinal Cord Injury Medical Malpractice Case

In a recent opinion from the First Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana, the plaintiff appealed a trial court ruling granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants in a medical malpractice action. In June 2006, the plaintiff underwent a spinal fusion surgery performed by a certain surgeon who later left the practice and moved out of state. Another physician who worked at the same neurosurgery center took over the plaintiff’s follow-up care and eventually referred the plaintiff to the defendant-physician for continued care. In particular, the plaintiff complained of persistent post-operative lower back pain, which extended to his buttocks and legs and caused him to experience difficulty sitting down.

The defendant is experienced in the field of pain management and neurology. When he first examined the plaintiff, he suggested that the plaintiff undergo a discogram to determine the source of his chronic pain. Following the procedure, the plaintiff reported experiencing severe headaches and reduced control of his bladder and bowel functions, along with worsening pain in his lower limbs. At this time, the defendant diagnosed the plaintiff with a spinal fluid leak. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff admitted himself to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with corda equine syndrome.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice action against the defendant in accordance with the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (LMMA), as well as a number of other health care providers. A medical review panel gathered to assess the claim, and on that same day, they rendered a decision concluding that the defendants had not deviated from the appropriate standard of medical care. Additionally, the medical review panel noted that the discogram procedure had known risks and complications and that the procedure resulted in a meaningful surgery.

Next, the plaintiff filed a civil lawsuit against the defendant and claimed that he was negligent in failing to prevent a spinal fluid leak, failing to address the plaintiff’s serious medical needs, failing to respond to communications, failing to diagnose the plaintiff’s condition in a timely manner, and failing to act with reasonable care. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiff could not establish that the defendant violated the applicable standard of care, relying in part on the determination from the medical review panel. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

The plaintiff assigned five errors, chiefly that the trial court erred by excluding certain records from evidence, by not allowing the plaintiff to supplement the evidence with certified copies of his medical records, by holding that the plaintiff was required to offer medical evidence of the standard of care, and by finding that certain facts regarding the sequence of events surrounding his care were undisputed.

In upholding the trial court’s ruling, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff’s proffered evidence was properly excluded because it was not offered through appropriate procedures and in a timely manner. Referring to the plaintiff’s substantive arguments, the court referred to the LMMA’s requirement that the plaintiff establish by a preponderance of the evidence “the standard of care applicable to the defendant physician.”

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of medical malpractice, the dedicated trial lawyers at Dué Guidry Piedrahita Andrews Courrege L.C. are prepared to assist you. Having proudly served numerous victims and their families throughout Louisiana, we understand how devastating this situation is for you and your loved ones. We can assist you with each phase of the litigation, from gathering evidence to negotiating with insurance companies. To set up your free consultation, call us now at (225) 929-7481 or contact us online to get started.

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