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Lee v. Quinn

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 15, 2017

ANJEL LEE INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR CHILD, LANDON LEE (DECEASED)
v.
DR. MICHAEL QUINN, DR. KELECHIN. IHEAGWARA, DR. RUFUS HIXON, III, DR. SHANNON BOUDREAUX, AND OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER

         APPEALED FROM THE NINETEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT IN AND FOR THE PARISH OF EAST BATON ROUGE STATE OF LOUISIANA DOCKET NUMBER C637830 HONORABLE TODD HERNANDEZ, JUDGE

          Vincent J. Desalvo Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorneys for Plaintiff/ Appellant Anjel Lee Individually, and on behalf of her minor child, Landon Lee (Deceased)

          Douglas K. Williams Chris D. Billings Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorneys for Defendants/ Appellees Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, Inc., d/b/a Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, and Dr. Shannon Boudreaux

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McDONALD, AND CHUTZ, JJ.

          McDONALD, J.

         This is an appeal from a summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims against an emergency room physician and general hospital after the district court ruled that plaintiff's expert, a cardiologist, did not possess the requisite knowledge, skill, training, or education necessary to render an expert opinion on the standards of care or the breach of the standards of care of a general hospital or an emergency room physician. After review, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This is a tragic case. Around 12:19 a.m. on June 13, 2012, 13-month-old Landon Lee[1] was transported by ambulance to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center (OLOL) with complaints of respiratory distress and vomiting. He was evaluated in the emergency room, determined to have cardiac issues, and admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Landon's condition deteriorated, requiring intubation and aggressive lifesaving efforts. Landon was ultimately transferred to Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans by helicopter later that morning so that he could be put into the ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) unit. Landon was given CPR during the transfer, and also upon arrival at Ochsner Medical Center around 9:00 a.m. However, Landon was pronounced dead at 9:44 a.m. An autopsy conducted several days later determined that Landon died from cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart).

         On March 17, 2015, Landon's mother, Anjel Lee, filed suit for damages individually, and on behalf of Landon, against OLOL and Dr. Shannon Boudreaux, a pediatrician and emergency room physician who treated Landon at OLOL. Ms. Lee asserted that OLOL and Dr. Boudreaux failed to properly care for and treat Landon, and asked for damages resulting from his death.[2] Ms. Lee maintained that the claim was timely submitted to a Medical Review Panel, and that the panel had rendered an opinion on November 24, 2014.[3]

         On April 15, 2015, OLOL filed an answer, admitting that Landon was transported by ambulance to OLOL, and that Landon received medical treatment and care at OLOL. OLOL generally denied the other allegations of the petition. OLOL maintained that it was a qualified healthcare provider pursuant to the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act, La. R.S. 40:1231.1, et seq., and was entitled to immunities from liability and limitations of liability as a qualified healthcare provider. OLOL denied a breach of the standard of care and denied that any action or inaction on its part was a legal cause or cause in fact of any injury to Landon, or was a legal cause or cause in fact of Landon's death. OLOL pled the fault of third parties for whom it was not liable, and asked that the claims against it be dismissed with prejudice.

         On April 21, 2015, Dr. Boudreaux filed an answer to the petition, admitting that he provided medical care and treatment to Landon while at OLOL. Dr. Boudreaux generally denied the other allegations and raised affirmative defenses. Dr. Boudreaux maintained that he was a qualified health care provider pursuant to Louisiana law and was entitled to immunities from liability and limitations of liability as a qualified healthcare provider, and that he possessed the knowledge, training and experience necessary to provide care to Landon, and further, denied any breach of the standard of care. Further, Dr. Boudreaux denied that any action on his part was a legal cause or cause in fact of any injury to Landon, or was a legal cause or cause in fact of Landon's death, and he pled the fault of third parties for whom he was not liable. Dr. Boudreaux asked for judgment in his favor dismissing the claims with prejudice.

         On March 14, 2016, OLOL and Dr. Boudreaux filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that Ms. Lee had no support to establish the essential elements of her claim at trial. OLOL asserted that Ms. Lee had no expert opinion establishing the standards of care of OLOL and Dr. Boudreaux or showing that OLOL and Dr. Boudreaux had breached the standards of care. OLOL and Dr. Boudreaux maintained that there was no genuine issue of material fact, that they were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law, and asked that the claims against them be dismissed with prejudice.

         On June 20, 2106, Ms. Lee filed an opposition to the motion for summary judgment, maintaining in part that expert testimony was not necessary to establish a medical malpractice claim when a lay person could infer negligence. Further, Ms. Lee maintained that the affidavit of her expert, Dr. Jon Meliones, a board-certified pediatric cardiologist specializing in pediatric critical care, established that the defendants were negligent and breached the standards of care in several respects.

         On July 6, 2016, OLOL and Dr. Boudreaux filed a reply in support of their motion for summary judgment, noting that the only medical malpractice cases not requiring expert testimony are those where the alleged negligence is so obvious that a lay person can infer ...


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