from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 585046 Honorable Craig
THOMAS, SOILEAU, JACKSON, BAKER & COLE By: Steven E.
Soileau Counsel for Appellants
KING & LANDRY By: Brady D. King, II Counsel for Appellees
STONE, COX, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.
BLEICH, J. (Pro Tempore)
and Roger Burchfield appeal a judgment by the First Judicial
District Court, Parish of Caddo, State of Louisiana, in their
favor and against the Patient's Compensation Fund in the
amount of $ 400, 000.00. The Patient's Compensation Fund
("PCF") answers the appeal, seeking a reduction in
the judgment's award. For the following reasons, we
affirm the judgment of the trial court, as amended, and
render judgment in favor of Carol and Roger Burchfield.
August 14, 2013, after referral by his gastroenterologist,
Roger Burchfield was admitted to Willis-Knighton Medical
Center ("Willis-Knighton") for gallbladder surgery
to be performed by Forrest Wright, M.D. Pursuant to Dr.
Wright's pre-operative orders, Roger arrived at the
hospital and underwent a chest X-ray and EKG the morning of
the surgery. Roger's EKG was not read by Dr. Wright prior
to surgery. The previously ordered EKG indicated: 1) possible
left atrial enlargement; 2) nonspecific intraventricular
block; 3) possible septal infarct; and 4) inferior infarct.
The chest x-ray, which, again, was not read by Dr. Wright,
the anesthesiologist, or hospital nursing staff prior to
Roger's surgery, showed congestive heart failure. Roger
was unaware of any of these conditions.
the EKG and chest X-ray having gone unread by Dr. Wright, and
despite the findings from the tests, Roger was placed under
general anesthesia, and the surgery proceeded. There were no
apparent immediate complications, and he was discharged later
almost 32 hours (on August 16), Roger presented at an
emergency room near his residence with shortness of breath
and significant swelling. He was determined to be in critical
condition and was transported via ambulance to
Willis-Knighton where he was admitted to the intensive care
unit. Later, it was concluded that Roger had suffered an
acute myocardial infarction (i.e., a heart attack) and
respiratory failure, as well as worsening of pulmonary edema,
congestive heart failure, and bilateral pleural effusions.
Roger was intubated and placed in a medically induced coma. A
heart catheterization was performed, by which an intra-aortic
balloon pump was inserted to assist the pumping of his heart.
Roger was also placed on a ventilator to assist his
because the damage to Roger's heart was too great, the
medical team determined Roger was not a candidate for heart
bypass surgery, and he had to be transported to Baylor
Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, on August 22, 2013. There,
he was evaluated for a left ventricular assist device and/or
a heart transplant. On September 3, 2013, Roger received a
appears from the record that Roger has had a generally
satisfactory recovery from the transplant (however
"satisfactory" a recovery can be with a
transplanted organ). Nonetheless, he is disabled from his
previous lifelong profession as a heavy equipment mechanic,
and as a heart transplant patient, he is now laboring under
strict medical treatment for the remainder of his life. The
life expectancy for heart transplant patients is 13 years;
thus Roger, who was 58 years old at the time of this
incident, is expected to have, statistically, a much
Burchfields' case was brought before the Medical Review
Panel ("MRP"), which concluded that Dr. Wright had
breached the standard of care by failing to review the pre-op
tests he had ordered. According to the MRP's opinion,
Roger's gallbladder surgery was not an emergency.
Further, the MRP opined the chest X-ray report
"warranted postponing the surgery until a cardiology
consult could be obtained . . . the failure to review the
chest x-ray report and request a cardiology consult was a
factor of the resultant damages." (Emphasis added).
Burchfields filed a medical malpractice claim against the
health care providers involved with Roger's surgery. Two
of the defendants ultimately were dismissed, and the claim
against Dr. Wright eventually was settled for $ 100, 000.00.
After a three-day jury trial against the PCF, the jury
determined there were no damages caused by the breach of the
standard of care, but concluded that Dr. Wright's breach
of the standard of care caused Roger a lost chance of a
better outcome. The jury awarded Roger a lump sum of $ 680,
000.00 in damages for his lost chance, but it did not
indicate if those damages were general or special.
trial court, recognizing the medical malpractice statutory
cap of $ 500, 000.00, reduced the jury verdict from $ 680,
000.00 to $ 400, 000.00 and rendered its
judgment. The Burchfields filed a motion for
judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which was denied. This
appeal by the ...