IN RE: MEDICAL REVIEW PANEL PROCEEDING OF MILDRED LOUISE LYONS
from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. M25-2013 (Civil)
Honorable J. Wilson Rambo, Judge
PATRICK R. JACKSON, A.P.L.C. Counsel for Plaintiff By:
Patrick R. Jackson Appellant, Theresa A. Henderson,
Attorney-in-Fact for Mildred Louise Lyons
SMITH & ROBERTS, L.L.P. Counsel for Defendant By: Mark A.
Goodwin Appellee, Christus Health Central Louisiana
MOORE, PITMAN, and DREW (Ad Hoc), JJ.
plaintiff, Mildred Louise Lyons, appeals from a summary
judgment in favor of the defendant, Christus Health Central
of Louisiana, that dismissed the Medical Review Panel
proceeding instituted by the plaintiff against the defendant.
For the following reasons, we render judgment granting the
plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment and remand
for further proceedings.
November 29, 2012, Mildred Louise Lyons, age 84, was a
resident of the assisted living portion of Christus St.
Joseph's Home, known as St. Joseph's Home Assisted
Living Center. Christus St. Joseph's Home is owned by
Christus Health Central of Louisiana. Ms. Lyons had lived in
the facility since May 5, 2009. Her apartment was located on
the third floor.
the afternoon of that day, Ms. Lyons, who suffered from
dementia, was found wandering in the parking lot of the
facility looking for her car. She was redirected inside the
facility and reportedly participated in activities later that
Lyons was present in her room at the 9:00 p.m. bed check, but
she was not there for the 11:00 p.m. bed check. She was
subsequently discovered lying unconscious on the ground
outside the building below an open third-story window. The
investigating police officer, Detective J.C. Sturdivant,
determined that she had fallen 21 feet from the open window.
In his report he wrote:
The window was at the end of the hallway of the third floor,
where Lyons resided. The window had been raised, and the
screen had been pushed away. It appeared that Lyons exited
the third floor window, for an unknown reason, and fell to
Lyons sustained serious injuries, including brain bleeding
and multiple bone fractures to her legs, hip and ribs as well
as other serious bodily injuries. However, she subsequently
recovered and was later released from the hospital.
Lyons died 2½ years later on July 30, 2015. Theresa
Henderson, her sister who initiated this action on her
behalf, has been substituted as the plaintiff.
Lyons had a history of wandering. Detective Sturdivant also
stated in his narrative that Michelle Musgrove, the director
of the assisted living center, told him that it was common
for Ms. Lyons to "get lost, " exit the building
looking for her vehicle which she does not own, and forget
which apartment she lived in. She reported that Ms.
Lyons' condition had worsened, and for that reason she
was on a list to be checked on approximately every two hours.
weeks prior to this accident, on November 7, 2012, Ms. Lyons
was taken to Woodlands Behavioral Center for psychiatric
evaluation and medication adjustment with complaints of
agitation, aggressive behavior and wandering. She was
diagnosed with severe dementia (Alzheimer's type),
impulse control disorder, hyperlipidemia and hypertension,
labile mood, insomnia and vitamin deficiency. Her medications
for these problems were adjusted, and upon discharge on
November 22, 2012, her physical condition was described as
poor. She was then sent directly to Winn Parish Medical
Center hospital. She was returned back to Christus St.
Joseph's on November 27, 2012.
days later, Ms. Musgrove called Theresa Henderson about
transferring Ms. Lyons to a more appropriate facility given
her condition, and contacted The Oaks facility about
evaluating Ms. Lyons for admission to that facility. However,
before any further action was taken, the accident occurred.
Henderson, filed a medical malpractice complaint against
Christus St. Joseph's Home with the Louisiana
Patient's Compensation Fund ("PCF") requesting
a Medical Review Panel ("MRP") proceeding pursuant
to the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act ("MMA" or
"Act.). The PCF sent plaintiff's attorney a
letter stating that St. Joseph's Home is a self-insured
provider "qualified for acts of medical malpractice
under the provisions of La. R.S. 40:1299.41 et seq.
for the claim." Christus Health Central sent
plaintiff's counsel a letter stating that St.
Joseph's Home is owned by Christus Health Central doing
business as St. Joseph's Home. Before any further action
was taken, the proceedings of the MRP were stayed because
Christus Health Central filed a petition for declaratory
judgment in district court. The petition asserted that this
assisted living facility is not a "health care
provider" as defined by the Act, does not provide
"health care" as defined by the Act, and that the
plaintiff's PCF claim is an ordinary negligence claim,
not a medical malpractice claim, and therefore outside the
scope of the Act. It also argued in a supporting memorandum
that the plaintiff's negligence claim has now prescribed,
and therefore both the malpractice claim and tort claim
should be dismissed with prejudice.
Christus Health Central moved for summary judgment on the
question of whether Ms. Lyons' claim fell within the
scope of the Act, as Christus St. Joseph's Home Assisted
Living Center is not a "health care provider" as
defined by the MMA, and does not provide "health
care" to its residents. Defendant filed a cross-motion
on the same issue.
a hearing, the district court granted Christus Health
Central's motion, denied Ms. Lyons' cross-motion, and
rendered summary judgment dismissing the MRP proceeding. This
review the grant of a motion for summary judgment de
novo using the same criteria as the district court.
Rodgers v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins., 2015-0868
(La. 6/30/15), 168 So.3d 375.
was enacted by the Louisiana Legislature in response to a
"perceived medical malpractice insurance
'crisis'." Dupuy v. NMC Oper. Co.,
L.L.C., 2015-1754 (La. 3/15/16), 187 So.3d 436;
Williamson v. Hospital Serv. Dist. No.1 of
Jefferson, 04-0451, p.4 (La. 12/1/04), 888 So.2d 782,
785. The legislative intent was to reduce or stabilize
medical malpractice insurance rates and to assure the
availability of affordable medical services to the public.
Id. Toward this end, "the MMA gives qualified
health care providers two advantages in actions against them
for malpractice, namely, a limit on the amount of damages and
the requirement that the claim first be reviewed by a medical
review panel before commencing suit in a court of law."
Id. at 439.
of these advantages, we note the unusual position taken by
the defendant notwithstanding certification by the PCF that
it is a qualified health care provider ("QHCP"), by
arguing that it is not a "health care provider"
under the Act with regard to the St. Joseph's Home
Assisted Living facility. Nor, it argues, did it provide
"health care" to Ms. Lyons that resulted in her
injuries. It maintains that the plaintiff must therefore
bring her action in district court as an ordinary negligence
claim subject to one-year liberative prescription; because
that claim has now prescribed, it should be dismissed with
and its limitations on tort liability for QHCPs apply
strictly to claims "arising from medical malpractice,
" and all other tort liability on the part of the QHCP
is governed by general tort law. Dupuy, supra.
Because the limitation on liability the MMA gives to
qualified health care providers is in derogation of
the rights of tort victims, the Act is strictly construed.
is defined under the MMA in pertinent part as "any
unintentional tort or any breach of contract based on
health care or professional services rendered, or
which should have been rendered, by a health care
provider, to a patient, including failure to render
services timely and the handling of a patient, including
loading and unloading of a patient." La. R.S.
40:1231.1(A)(9); White v. ...