Louisiana Supreme Court to Consider Scope of Med-Mal Cap

Louisiana’s medical malpractice damage cap, set at $500,000.00 in 1975, could see a significant change in the scope of its application thanks to several lawsuits set to be argued before the Louisiana Supreme Court.

In 1975, the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act set a $500,000.00 statutory maximum for any amount recoverable as damages (other than medical expenses) in a Louisiana medical malpractice suit.  However, there are instances of negligence which occurs in a medical context that can fall outside of the purview of the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act.

The Louisiana Supreme Court is currently considering whether a hospital’s “negligent credentialing” of its doctors is subject to the statutory cap of $500,000.00.  In layman’s terms, the Court will decide whether administrative decisions made by hospital personnel are considered malpractice under Louisiana law.

Three cases have been consolidated to be heard by Supreme Court, the most prominent of which is Billeaudeau v. Opelousas General Hospital System, et al. That case stems from an incorrect diagnosis made in 2010. Brandi Billeaudeau, the adult daughter of Joseph and Veronica Billeaudeau (who is a nurse), collapsed in her parent’s home. Brandi, who has Down’s syndrome, was taken to Opelousas General where emergency room physician Dr. Kondilo Skirlis-Zavala diagnosed a focal motor seizure and ordered the administration of anti-seizure medication.

Brandi’s parents disagreed with the doctor’s diagnosis. The Billeaudeaus told the doctor that they thought their daughter suffered a stroke and asked that she be given a t-plasminogen, which is used to treat stroke victims. When the doctor refused, the Billeaudeaus requested that Brandi be transferred to Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, where she received the t-plasminogen treatment. It was later determined that Brandi had, in fact, suffered a stroke.

The Billeaudeaus filed a general negligence suit against Opelousas General, Dr. Skirlis-Zavala, and the Shumacher Group of Louisiana. They argued that the hospital was negligent by allowing Skirlis-Zavala to have privileges in their emergency room because of her inexperience in emergency medicine and stroke diagnosis, because she attended medical school in Mexico, and because she had two malpractice claims filed against her at the time she applied for privileges at Opelousas General. Because the hospital’s alleged negligence involved administrative decisions, as opposed to medical decisions, the Billeaudeaus argued that their claim did not fall under the definition of medical malpractice.

The trial court agreed with the Billeaudeaus and found that the statutory cap did not apply to their claims. The defendants appealed the case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeal, who affirmed the trial court’s decision. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted writ, and the case is scheduled to be heard on September 8, 2016. A decision is expected later this year.

The attorneys at Broussard & David have the knowledge and experience necessary to handle cases of this nature and will fight to obtain fair compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered harm as a result of the negligence of another, contact the attorneys at Broussard & David to discuss your legal rights at (337) 233-2323 (local) or (888) 337-2323 (toll-free).

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