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Newman v. LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 17, 2017


         Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 564021 Honorable Craig Owen Marcotte, Judge.

          SCHRUMPF LAW FIRM By: Oliver Jackson Schrumpf Counsel for Appellants Jane Newman and Clifton Newman (Deceased)

          NELSON & HAMMONS By: John Layne Hammons By: Annis Cornell Flournoy Counsel for Appellants Linda Canady, Henry Newman, & Darrell Newman

          SPECIAL ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL By: Claude W. Bookter, Jr. By: D. Brennan Hussey Counsel for Appellee LSU Health Sciences Center- Shreveport

          Before PITMAN, STONE, and COX, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         Jane Newman and her three adult children, Linda Canady, Henry Newman, and Darrell Newman, filed suit against Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - Shreveport and Dr. Patrick Juneau, III, M.D., alleging that the hospital's and doctor's negligence caused the death of Clifton Newman. A jury found that neither the hospital's nor the doctor's actions breached the standard of care. For the following reasons, we affirm.


         On March 30, 2009, Clifton Newman ("Newman") was involved in a single-vehicle accident in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He was transported on a spine board with an Ambu Perfit Ace cervical collar neck brace ("C-collar") to Christus St. Patrick Hospital. Radiographic imaging revealed Newman suffered from an unstable fracture of his neck. Newman was subsequently transported by ambulance to Lafayette General Hospital to the care of Dr. Patrick Juneau, III ("Dr. Juneau"), a board-certified neurosurgeon. Dr. Juneau evaluated Newman and determined he had a serious displaced fracture of the cervical spine. Dr. Juneau concluded the complexity of Newman's spine injuries required neurosurgical intervention and that Newman should be treated at a definitive neurosurgical center. Dr. Juneau called Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport ("LSUHSC") to discuss Newman's condition. It was ultimately decided that Newman should be transferred to LSUHSC. Newman remained in the C-collar on the spine board and was transported to LSUHSC by ground ambulance.

         Upon arrival at LSUHSC, the on-call senior resident issued an order for Newman to undergo a myelogram as well as an order stating "Miami J collar [at] all times" for Newman's neck. At all times pertinent to this matter, Newman remained in the C-collar that he was initially transported in. Newman was then transferred to the care of Dr. David E. Connor ("Dr. Connor"), a first-year neurosurgery resident. In order to accomplish the myelogram, Dr. Connor ordered Newman be turned from his back onto his stomach ("repositioning"). Due to the nature of Newman's condition and supposed injury, it was critical that his neck remain immobile and not sustain any movement during the repositioning, to avoid a terminal spinal cord injury. Assisting with the repositioning were two radiologists, two intensive care unit nurses, and two radiology technicians. After the repositioning, Newman's blood pressure significantly dropped and the myelogram could not be completed. Newman subsequently died hours later on April 1, 2009.

         Newman's wife and children ("Plaintiffs") filed a complaint and a medical review panel ("MRP") consisting of three neurosurgeons was convened. The main contention in Plaintiffs' complaint was that Newman was never placed in a Miami J collar ("Miami J collar") as ordered. Plaintiffs further complained that Dr. Conner: 1) failed to give any written or oral instructions regarding proper medical management and repositioning of Newman; 2) failed to supervise or oversee the myelogram procedure; and 3) failed to supervise Newman's neck as he was turned from his back to the prone position. On August 24, 2012, the MRP rendered a unanimous opinion wherein it found that neither LSUHSC nor Dr. Juneau breached the applicable standard of care during their treatment of Newman. The MRP found Newman did not suffer from a traumatic fracture or any significant dislocation at the C6-C7 segment of his spine ("C6-7"); that Newman was properly transported and turned with appropriate immobilization; and that there was no neurological deterioration as a result of the transport to LSUHSC. Additionally, the MRP found that the decision to turn Newman onto his stomach to perform the myelogram was proper procedure.

         On November 14, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against LSUHSC and Dr. Juneau.[1] On April 21, 2016, a jury found LSUHSC did not breach the applicable standard of care in its treatment of Newman. On May 2, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict ("JNOV") and, alternatively, for a new trial. However, the trial court denied the motion. This appeal followed.


         Plaintiffs argue the jury's verdict was manifestly erroneous based on expert testimony and, therefore, the trial court was required to substitute its judgment for that of the jury. Specifically, Plaintiffs argue there was overwhelming evidence indicating LSUHSC breached the standard of care by allowing Dr. Connor, a first-year ...

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