Medical malpractice claims are brought when a patient is a victim of negligence at the hands of their physician. Due to the nature of this category of claims, stories of medical malpractice are often horror stories showcasing worst-case scenarios. Even further, the most intense medical malpractice claims result in the death of the patient. Understandably, the patient’s family may seek to find responsibility for the death of their loved one. In the following lawsuit, a family fails to show the legal requirements to bring a medical malpractice claim after their family member died during surgery.
The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are the surviving family members of a man who died during brain surgery by the defendant’s physician. The family contends that due to the deceased’s history of cardiac trauma prior to surgery, he should have been evaluated for cardiac fitness before the physician performed the surgery. The trial court found that the expert testimony proffered by three physicians was insufficient to prove that medical malpractice had occurred. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, insisting that the defendant had breached his duty of care by not ordering further cardiac tests.
The plaintiff must establish the elements of a medical malpractice claim to bring the claim successfully. The first element required to be shown is the standard of care at which comparable physicians in Louisiana generally exercise when taking care of their patients. The second required element is that the defendant failed to meet the reasonable care prescribed by the first element or lacked the required knowledge altogether. The third and final element is that the failure to exercise reasonable care caused the plaintiff’s injuries. La. R.S. 9:2794(A).
The appellate court can only overrule the lower court’s determination of the facts required for the elements of medical malpractice if there is extreme error. Stobart v. State, 617 So.2d. Medical malpractice claims involve testimony from medical experts to shed light on the standard of care required for a given patient. If the testimonies directly conflict, the appellate court will defer to the original finding of fact. Knight v. Gould.
The factual record showed that the deceased was given recommendations to follow up with a cardiac evaluation before having the operation. However, the deceased did not take action to follow up with the recommendation. The experts agreed that the standard of care in this situation required a cardiac evaluation based on the medical past. They also agreed that it was not the defendant’s responsibility under this standard of care to ensure cardiac fitness, but rather that of the clearing physician. Therefore, the appellate court found that based on the review of the expert testimony, the trial court was acting within its discretion when it found that plaintiffs failed to show the second element of medical malpractice.
While the defendant surgeon was found not liable for medical malpractice, his colleague, the clearing physician, was implicated as being responsible. Likely, he was separately pursued under this theory. This case shows the complexity of trying to get recourse for the wrongful death of a loved one due to medical malpractice. Experts help bridge the gap between the expert knowledge and the knowledge that a layperson would have, but that only sometimes means relief is found.
Additional Sources: MATTHEWS V. PROVENZA
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Corrinne Yoder-Mulkey
Additional Berniard Law Firm Articles about Medical Malpractice: Louisiana Court of Appeal Dismisses Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Due to Absence of Expert Testimony