A man underwent shoulder surgery. After the surgery, the man developed an infection. The infection required several additional surgeries and treatment to resolve.
The man and his wife filed a complaint with the medical review panel. The complaint alleged the surgeon, the practice group, and the hospital where the procedure took place committed medical malpractice. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the hospital failed to develop, maintain, and enforce proper policies and procedures to prevent surgical infections. Additionally, the complaint alleged the hospital was responsible under the theory of respondeat superior for the actions of its employees. In support of their complaint, the couple submitted medical records, their affidavits, and photographs.
The medical review panel found that the evidence did not support the conclusion that the surgeon or hospital failed to meet the applicable standards of care.
The couple filed a suit for damages against the hospital. The suit alleged that the hospital failed to properly train and supervise the nurses who treated the man.
The hospital filed a partial exception of prematurity. The hospital argued that the couple’s allegations, regarding the failure to train and supervise the nurses, were premature because they did not allege these claims in their complaint to the medical review panel.
The couple opposed the exception. They contended that the language alleged in the complaint was broad enough to encompass the claims set forth in the suit.
The Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson granted the exception of prematurity.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed and remanded. The court held that the brief descriptions of malpractice contained in the medical review panel complaint were broad enough to encompass the specific allegations contained in the suit for damages.
The brief descriptions of malpractice contained in the medical review panel complaint were broad enough to encompass the specific allegations contained in the suit for damages. Statutory law requires complaints to the medical review panel to include a brief description of the alleged malpractice as to each named defendant health care provider. The court noted that the medical review panel complaint alleged direct liability for the hospital’s failure to develop, maintain, and enforce proper policies and procedures to prevent surgical infections as well as vicarious liability under the theory of respondeat superior for the actions of its employees. The underlying injury was the infection the man developed as a result of treatment by the surgeon and the hospital. The court reasoned that, in alleging both direct and vicarious liability, the couple sought medical panel review of all the policies, procedures, and/or employee conduct that could have led to the infection. Additionally, the court found that the medical review panel understood hospital employees to be a part of the complaint based on the panel’s conclusion that there was no deviation from the standard of care on the part of the hospital and/or its employees in relation to the man’s infection. The court noted that the panel specifically stated that hospital personnel properly monitored the man and followed all physician orders in an appropriate and timely fashion. Moreover, the court held that an allegation of liability under respondeat superior required some fault on the part of an employee by definition. The court reasoned that, by alleging in the complaint that (1) the injury the man suffered was infection from surgery, and (2) the hospital failed to train and supervise its nurses, the complaint could reasonably be understood to allege the hospital was liable for failing to train and supervise its nurses to prevent surgical infection. The court concluded that the couple’s suit survived the exception for prematurity because the claims had been vetted by the medical review panel.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the trial court’s grant of the exception of prematurity.
See: Coulon v. Endourance Risk Partners, Inc., 2017 WL 1034626 (La., March 15, 2017) (not designated for publication).
See also Medical Law Perspectives, June 2016 Report: How Risky Is Going to the Hospital? The Dangers and Liabilities of Healthcare-Associated Infections
See also Medical Law Perspectives, July 2013 Report: New Hips, New Knees, New Problems: Hip and Knee Replacements
See also Medical Law Perspectives, January 2012 Report: Hospital-Acquired Infections: Who Is Liable and Why?
See the Medical Law Perspectives July 31, 2015, Blog: Hospital’s Policies, Procedures Not Discoverable in Vicarious Liability Suit
See the Medical Law Perspectives October 17, 2014, Blog: Professional Judgment Pattern Jury Instruction Applied to Nurses