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Tatum v. Shroff

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 19, 2014

JOEL TATUM, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
PANKAJRAI SHROFF, MD and CALDWELL PARISH HOSPITAL SERVICE DISTRICT NO. 1 d/b/a CITIZENS MEDICAL CENTER, Defendants-Appellees

Appealed from the Thirty-Seventh Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caldwell, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 27153. Honorable Don C. Burns, Judge.

CAPITELLI & WICKER, J. Alex Watkins, T. Carey Wicker, III, Counsel for Appellant.

NELSON, ZENTNER, SARTOR & SNELLINGS, F. Williams Sartor, Jr., Counsel for Appellee, Pankajrai Shroff, M.D.

Before WILLIAMS, STEWART and GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 562

[49,518 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] GARRETT, J.

The plaintiff in this medical malpractice suit, Joel Tatum, appeals a trial court ruling which granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, Dr. Pankajrai Shroff. We reverse the trial court judgment and remand for further proceedings.

FACTS

Frank Tatum, the plaintiff's father, became a patient of Dr. Shroff in 2003. Mr. Tatum's medical history included diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, cervical spinal stenosis, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). On January 18, 2010, he saw Dr. Shroff, complaining of shortness of breath, intermittent confusion and edema of both legs. The doctor admitted Mr. Tatum to Caldwell Parish Hospital Service District No. 1, d/b/a Citizens Medical Center (CMC), for observation and monitoring. On January 22, 2010, the 79-year-old patient was found to be unresponsive, and a code was called. He was transferred to Rapides Regional Medical Center (RRMC), where he was pronounced dead later that afternoon. No autopsy was performed.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice complaint against CMC and Dr. Shroff, which asserted that they failed to timely diagnose and treat a pulmonary embolism and/or DVT and failed to provide treatment which met the applicable standard of care. The complaint was submitted to a medical review panel (MRP), pursuant to the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act. On November 10, 2011, the MRP issued an opinion unanimously finding that neither CMC nor Dr. Shroff breached the applicable standard of care. As to Dr. Shroff, the MRP concluded that blood gas, clinical and X-ray findings [49,518 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] were consistent with his diagnosis of hypoventilation syndrome with right heart failure and that he ordered appropriate treatment. It found that prior to January 21, 2010, there were no clinical findings to suggest acute DVT, and that when symptoms suggestive of it manifested, Dr. Shroff ordered a venous Doppler test. According to the MRP's opinion, the radiologist's report indicated positive DVT in the right leg, and Dr. Shroff ordered appropriate medication. The MRP further concluded that there was a " high likelihood" that the test findings were residual findings from a prior DVT because a D-dimer test performed at RRMC was normal.

Page 563

The MRP found that such a finding " virtually excludes the probability" that Mr. Tatum had an acute pulmonary embolism because " a normal D-dimer study excludes acute PE and acute DVT with 95% sensitivity."

In January 2012, the plaintiff filed suit against Dr. Shroff and CMC, asserting medical malpractice in their treatment of his late father. More specifically, he alleged that they failed to timely diagnose and treat a pulmonary embolism and/or DVT. Dr. Shroff filed an answer which incorporated a dilatory exception of vagueness and ambiguity and a motion to strike. He admitted that Mr. Tatum presented to his office on January 18, 2010, and that a venous Doppler study was performed on January 21. Dr. Shroff complained that certain paragraphs of the petition were vague and ambiguous, and he requested that they be stricken. Dr. Shroff's exception of vagueness and ambiguity and motion to strike were granted by consent judgment in March 2012.

[49,518 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] In September 2012, Dr. Shroff filed a motion for summary judgment. He asserted that the plaintiff had failed to identify any expert witness to refute the findings of the MRP. Relying upon the favorable MRP opinion and the plaintiff's failure to identify an expert witness, Dr. Shroff requested summary judgment dismissing him from the suit.[1]

In opposition, the plaintiff filed a letter affidavit dated December 27, 2012, from Dr. Michael Langan, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, who is affiliated with Harvard Medical School and board certified in internal medicine with an added qualification in geriatric medicine. In his affidavit, Dr. Langan recited a review of Mr. Tatum's medical records from Dr. Shroff's office and from CMC. Among other things, these records showed a 2003 history of DVT in the right leg. The records from Mr. Tatum's January 2010 hospitalization were discussed in detail, including the discharge summary in which Dr. Shroff stated that the cause of Mr. Tatum's ...


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