Medical malpractice claims are not always limited to instances during treatment or surgery and may, as one young patient argued, include failures that occur afterward or post-operatively.
Justin Thomas, an eighteen-year-old, aspiring armed serviceman, underwent a right shoulder arthroscopy at Lafayette Surgicare to repair his repeated rotator cuff dislocations. The surgery was considered an outpatient procedure that Thomas’s surgeon, Dr. Otis Drew (Dr. Drew), performed beginning just before 9:00 AM on July 1, 2013, and completed around 11:00 AM the same day. Before and after the surgery, Thomas was given significant anesthesia and medication. By 1:50 PM that afternoon, Thomas was discharged into the care of his parents. Less than six hours later, after Thomas’s mom gave him a prescribed dose of oxycodone, he fell unconscious and was unresponsive to Narcan, so an ambulance arrived at Thomas’ parents’ home taking him back to the hospital, where he lay in a coma for five days. As a result, Thomas experienced brain damage and lost the use of the left side of his body.
In May 2016, a medical review board determined that despite Thomas’s injury, the medical staff, including Dr. Drew, met the required standard of care. Nevertheless, three months later, Thomas filed a lawsuit against Dr. Drew, the anesthesiologist, Lafayette Surgicare, Lafayette Surgery Center, and The Regions Health System of Acadiana. His complaint alleged that he was released too early post-operatively and prescribed extensive anesthesia and heavy narcotic medication that induced him into a coma. In response, Dr. Drew filed a summary judgment motion that the trial court, Fifteenth Judicial District Court Parish of Lafayette, granted, dismissing Thomas’s claims. Thomas appealed to Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Third Circuit), arguing that the trial court erred in finding that his expert affidavit was inadmissible and did not create a genuine issue of material fact.