Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lucas v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 1, 2017

ANTHONY LUCAS
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

          SECTION "L" (4)

          ORDER & REASONS

         Before the Court is Defendant United States of America's Motion for Summary Judgment. R. Doc. 16. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. R. Doc. 20. Defendant timely replies. R. Doc. 23. Having reviewed the parties' arguments and applicable law, the Court now issues this Order and Reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case involves the denial of an Administrative Claim and written demand under the Federal Torts Claim Act. R. Doc. 1 at 1. Plaintiff, Anthony Lucas (“Lucas”), underwent a surgical procedure known as a superior rectus recession on his left eye while a patient at the Veterans Administration Medical Center. R. Doc. 1 at 3. Lucas alleges that the medical providers were negligent in their performance of the superior rectus recession and severed or damaged muscle tissue in Lucas's left eye, leaving him unable to open his eye. R. Doc. 1 at 3.

         Lucas alleges that at all material times, the medical providers at the Veterans Administration Medical Center were acting in the course and scope of their employment. R. Doc. 1 at 2. According to Lucas, the medical care provided by the Veterans Administration deviated from the appropriate standard of care. Lucas seeks damages for physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, medical bills, loss of physical function, disfigurement, post-judgment interest, and fees and costs. R. Doc. 1 at 4.

         Defendant United States of America timely answered on July 25, 2016. R. Doc. 7 at 1. The United States asserts a number of affirmative defenses dependent on the Federal Torts Claim Act to limit Lucas's possible relief. R. Doc. 7 at 4. The United States also contends that relief should be limited to Louisiana's medical malpractice cap, and that Lucas failed to mitigate his damages. R. Doc. 7 at 4. Furthermore, the United States asserts that the injury arose from a non-connected accident or pre-existing condition, or, in the event that the United States is found negligent, superseding and intervening negligence of third parties broke any causal connection between the United States' negligence and Lucas's injuries. R. Doc. 7 at 6.

         II. PRESENT MOTIONS

         a. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (R. Doc. 16)

         Defendant now moves for summary judgment and argues that without an expert witness, Plaintiff cannot satisfy the necessary elements to prevail on his medical malpractice claim under Louisiana law. R. Doc. 16 at 1. In particular, Defendant contends that expert testimony is necessary to establish the applicable standard of care and whether Defendant breached that standard. R. Doc. 16 at 1. Defendant explains the initial deadline for submitting expert reports or disclosures in this case was March 13, 2017. R. Doc. 16 at 2. Plaintiff moved for a 30-day extension, which the Court granted. R. Doc. 16 at 2. Despite the extension, Plaintiff has been unable to produce an expert report, and has not indicated he will be able to do so. R. Doc. 16 at 2.

         Defendant argues that to prevail on a claim for medical malpractice under Louisiana law, Plaintiff must establish the applicable standard of care, that the provider breached the standard of care, and that the breach was the causal connection of Plaintiff's injury. R. Doc. 16 at 5 (citing Pfiffner v. Correa, 94-0924 (La. 10/17/94), 643 So.2d 1228, 1233). Generally, expert medical testimony is required to meet these elements, particularly “when the medical and factual issues are complex and outside the province of a lay juror's common knowledge.” R. Doc. 16 at 5 (quoting Thomas v. United States, 2005 WL 757268, *9 (E.D. La. March 31, 2005)). Defendant argues that the alleged medical malpractice in this case is not so egregious that it would be obvious to a lay person, and therefore Plaintiff must provide expert witness testimony to prevail on his claim. R. Doc. 16 at 6. In particular, Defendant contends that without expert testimony it is impossible to establish that his eye injury was caused by negligence, as opposed to some non-negligent occurrence. Further, Defendant avers that Plaintiff cannot prove the injury was a result of this particular procedure, rather than a result of his ongoing treatment for a degenerative eye condition. R. Doc. 16 at 6.

         b. Plaintiff's Response (R. Doc. 20)

         Plaintiff opposes the Motion and argues expert testimony is not necessary in this case, as the average lay person “may easily infer negligence” without expert testimony. R. Doc. 20 at 4. Plaintiff explains that before the July 2014 surgery, he could fully open his left eye. R. Doc. 20 at 4. After the surgery, he was no longer able to do so. R. Doc. 20 at 4. According to Plaintiff, “such a drastic and unexpected outcome could only have occurred as a result of substandard care provided by the VA medical staff.” R. Doc. 20 at 4. Further, Plaintiff contends that he has identified several medical providers on his witness list that will establish the applicable standard of care. R. Doc. 20 at 5.

         In support of his argument, Plaintiff provides two photographs of himself. One is marked “before” and shows Lucas standing with both eyes fully open. R. Doc. 20-2. The second is marked “after” and shows Lucas standing with one eye slightly swollen and completely closed. R. Doc. 20-3. According to Plaintiff, these photos “easily permit a lay person to infer” that Defendant was negligent while performing the surgery. R. Doc. 20 at 4.

         c. Defendant's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.