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Snider v. Louisiana Medical Mutual Insurance Company

Supreme Court of Louisiana

May 5, 2015

CLYDE SNIDER, JR., ET UX
v.
LOUISIANA MEDICAL MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, THIRD CIRCUIT, PARISH OF BEAUREGARD.

For Applicant: Benjamin Joseph Guilbeau, Megan Leigh Callahan, Marcelynn Hartman, STOCKWELL, SIEVERT, VICCELLIO, CLEMENTS & SHADDOCK.

For Respondent: Daniel Elmo Broussard, Jr., BROUSSARD, HALCOMB & VIZZIER.

CRICHTON, J., additionally concurs and assigns reasons. JOHNSON, Chief Justice, dissents. KNOLL, Justice, dissenting.

OPINION

Page 320

[2014-1964 La. 1] PER CURIAM

In this case, we are called upon to decide whether a jury's factual finding that a physician did not breach the appropriate standard of care is manifestly erroneous. For the reasons that follow, we find the jury's verdict is supported by the evidence and is not clearly wrong.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case was previously before the court in Snider v. Louisiana Medical Mut. Ins. Co., 13-0579 (La. 12/10/13), 130 So.3d 922. The underlying facts were set forth in our opinion as follows:

On May 13, 2007, within days of his twenty-seventh birthday, Clyde Snider, Jr., was hospitalized at CHRISTUS St.

Page 321

Patrick Hospital (" St. Patrick" ), in Lake Charles, Louisiana, for a suspected myocardial infarction. Mr. Snider was treated by cardiologist Dr. Jean King White, who diagnosed him with coronary artery disease and acute coronary syndrome, which was treated with angioplasty and the implantation of a heart stent in Mr. Snider's circumflex artery. He was also placed on medications, including a cholesterol-lowering medication, a beta-blocker, and a blood thinner.
On August 28, 2007 Mr. Snider sought treatment at the Beauregard Memorial Hospital (" Beauregard" ) emergency room in DeRidder, Louisiana for shortness of breath, chest [2014-1964 La. 2] pains, dizziness, lightheadedness, and faintness. Mr. Snider disclosed his past medical history, which included the May 2007 heart attack and coronary artery disease treatment, as well as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and a strong family history of premature coronary artery disease. Beauregard cardiologist Dr. Robin Yue diagnosed Mr. Snider with symptomatic bradycardia, as his heart rate fell as low as thirty-five beats per minute (a normal heart rate is considered to be at least sixty beats per minute). Dr. Yue recommended heart catheterization and implantation of a pacemaker; Mr. Snider consented. The procedures were performed later that day, and Mr. Snider was discharged from the hospital the following day.
On the day of his discharge from Beauregard, Mr. Snider sustained an unrelated injury to the area of his pacemaker, when, on his return home, his two-year-old daughter ran to greet him and jumped into his arms, striking his chest and causing injury to the surgical site. Mr. Snider returned to the Beauregard emergency room that evening, complaining of numbness in his left arm and pain in his shoulder. Mr. Snider was examined by Dr. Yue, who noted redness, swelling, severe tenderness at the pacemaker surgical site, left shoulder pain, and left arm weakness. Because Dr. Yue was leaving town on a previously-scheduled business trip, Mr. Snider was left in the care of Dr. Flynn A. Taylor, who ordered that Mr. Snider be monitored for signs of infection and hematoma at the pacemaker implant site. Deeming outpatient antibiotic treatment appropriate, Dr. Taylor discharged Mr. Snider from Beauregard on September 3, 2007.
On September 4, 2007 Mr. Snider returned to St. Patrick, where he was previously treated for his May 2007 cardiac problems, and was admitted to the hospital. He was examined by his treating cardiologist there, Dr. White, who found symptoms of infection at the pacemaker surgical site. Dr. White recommended removal of the pacemaker. The next day, Dr. Michael C. Turner, a cardiovascular surgeon, removed the pacemaker.
Subsequently, Mr. Snider filed a medical malpractice complaint against Dr. Yue, which was presented to a medical review panel. The medical review panel concluded that Dr. Yue had failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care and that his conduct was a factor in the " minor resultant damage." The medical review panel issued the following reasons for their decision:
[2014-1964 La. 3] Dr. Yue rushed the decision for implantation of a permanent pacemaker in this patient. He should have stopped the beta-blocker and the rivaroxaban for 24-48 hours, and monitored the patient for possible improvement or deterioration in heart rate, before making the decision about a permanent pacemaker. Except for

Page 322

the relatively minor complication of a hematoma, and the surgical scar after pacemaker extraction, we found no evidence of any long-term, major injury to this patient.
On December 16, 2010 Mr. Snider and his then-wife, Lisa Snider, individually and on behalf of their minor child, filed suit against Dr. Yue and his liability insurer, Louisiana Medical Mutual Insurance Company, seeking recovery for damages arising out of Dr. Yue's alleged negligence in the treatment of Mr. Snider on August 28, 2007. The Sniders alleged that Dr. Yue was at fault for: (1) failing to exercise a reasonable degree of skill and competence possessed and ordinarily exercised by members of his profession; (2) failing to provide Mr. Snider with diligent and skillful care; (3) failing to undertake conservative treatment to resolve Mr. Snider's medical condition and failing to stop his blood thinner medication prior to performing surgery; (4) proceeding to surgery for implantation of a pacemaker when Mr. Snider's condition and medications made said treatment contraindicated; (5) failing to consult with Mr. Snider's treating physician when Mr. Snider specifically asked that he be consulted; (6) failing to educate Mr. Snider on his true condition and the exact treatment being recommended and implemented; and (7) performing unnecessary surgery on Mr. Snider, resulting in complications requiring further treatment and surgery.
In March of 2012 this case was tried before a jury, which ruled in favor of Dr. Yue, finding that Mr. Snider had not proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Dr. Yue breached the applicable standard of care owed to Mr. Snider. The plaintiffs' subsequent motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and, alternatively, for new trial was denied by the district ...

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