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Aultman v. Maggio

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

November 27, 2017





         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 53] filed by Defendants Vijay Maggio, M.D. (“Dr. Maggio”), Amanda Schaefer (“Schaefer”), and Biotronic National, LLC (“Biotronic”). Plaintiffs Stacey Aultman and Heather Aultman oppose the motion. [Doc. No. 57');">57]. For reasons assigned below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.


         Defendants provide intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring (“IONM”) services at the request of surgeons and healthcare facilities. IONM is a technique used during surgery to monitor the condition of a patient's neural structures (e.g., nerves, spinal cord, and parts of the brain) during the surgical procedure.

         On October 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14');">4');">4');">4, Dr. Bernie G. McHugh, Jr. and Dr. Walter Sartor performed a T5-6 extreme lateral interbody fusion on Plaintiff Stacey Aultman (“Mr. Aultman”) at St. Francis Medical Center.[1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" name="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" id="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] At Dr. McHugh's request, Defendant Biotronic provided IONM during the surgery. Dr. McHugh, specifically, requested three types of IONM: Intraoperative Somatosensory Evoked Potentials (“SSEPs”), Intraoperative EMG, and Transcranial Motor Evoked Potentials (“TcMEPs”).

         Dr. McHugh obtained a baseline for each type of IONM. A baseline establishes the waveforms for each type of IONM specific to the patient and the surgery. All subsequent waveforms are compared to the baselines to determine whether there is any change.

         Biotronic provides monitoring personnel to advise the surgeon of the monitoring results. Micael Beebe (“Beebe”), a neural technologist, and Dr. Maggio, a neurologist, were Biotronic's employees at the time of the surgery, and both participated in Mr. Aultman's surgery.[2] Beebe was present in the operating room and prepared Mr. Autlman for IONM by connecting the requisite electrodes. Dr. Maggio participated remotely and provided online oversight.

         Before Dr. McHugh completed surgery, all SSEPs were present and consistent.[3" name="FN3" id= "FN3">3] However, subsequent to completion, all SSEPs were absent, indicating that something was affecting Mr. Autlman's spinal sensory pathways. When Mr. Aultman awoke from surgery, he had no movement in his lower limbs. According to Plaintiffs, Mr. Aultman is “now wheelchair bound” and “will never be able to walk again.” [Doc. No. 57');">57, 4');">4');">4');">4');">p. 4');">4');">4');">4].

         Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants Dr. Maggio, Schaefer, Biotronic, and St. Francis Medical Center in state court on June 23, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16.[4');">4');">4');">4" name="FN4');">4');">4');">4" id= "FN4');">4');">4');">4">4');">4');">4');">4] [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-4');">4');">4');">4, 3');">p. 3]. Plaintiffs allege, generally, that Defendants failed to properly communicate information to the surgeons. [Doc. Nos. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1; 57');">57]. While the parties seem to agree that Defendants provided IONM results to the surgeons, [5] Plaintiffs allege that Defendants failed to communicate the significance of the results.[6] [Doc. No. 57');">57, p. 5-6].

         Defendants removed the suit to this Court on August 2, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. On July 27, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the “evidence establishes that [they] did not breach any duty owed to Plaintiffs.” [Doc. Nos. 53; 53-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 5');">p. 5]. Defendants contend that they “properly performed the IONM and kept Dr. McHugh fully informed of the IONM results . . . .” [Doc. No. 53-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10]. In response to Plaintiffs' invocation of res ipsa loquitur and allegation of lack of informed consent, Defendants argue that the former does not apply and that Mr. Aultman did provide informed consent.

         Plaintiffs responded to the motion on August 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17. [Doc. No. 57');">57]. Defendants filed two replies, one on August 29, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, [Doc. No. 59], and another on November 6, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, [Doc. No. 66].


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence before a court shows “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.p. 5');">p. 56(a). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under applicable law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. 24');">4');">4');">42');">4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. 24');">4');">4');">42, 24');">4');">4');">48 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1986). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. 31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17');">4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. 31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, 323 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1986) (quoting Anderson, 4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. at 24');">4');">4');">47). “The moving party may meet its burden to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact by pointing out that the record contains no support for the non-moving party's claim.” Stahl v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 283 F.3d 254');">4');">4');">4, 263 (5th Cir. 2002). Thereafter, if the non-movant is unable to identify anything in the record to support its claim, summary judgment is appropriate. Id. “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.p. 5');">p. 56(c)(3).[7]

         In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, courts “may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence” and “must resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Total E & P USA Inc. v. Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Corp., 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19 F.3d 4');">4');">4');">424');">4');">4');">4');">71');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19 F.3d 4');">4');">4');">424');">4');">4');">4, 4');">4');">4');">434');">4');">4');">4 (5th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13) (citations omitted). While courts will “resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, ” an actual controversy exists only “when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air. Corp., 37 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1069');">37 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1069, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1075 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1994');">4');">4');">4). To rebut a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must show, with “significant probative evidence, ” that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Hamilton v. Segue Software, Inc., 32 F.3d 4');">4');">4');">473');">232 F.3d 4');">4');">4');">473, 4');">4');">4');">477 (5th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added). “‘If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, ' summary judgment is appropriate.” Cutting Underwater Tech. USA, Inc. v. Eni U.S. Operating Co., 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 51');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">671');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 51');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12, 51');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17 (5th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12) (quoting Anderson, 4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. at 24');">4');">4');">48).

         Relatedly, there can be no genuine dispute as to a material fact when a party fails “to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp., 4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. at 322-23. This is true “since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323.

         B. Claims Against Schaefer

         While Plaintiffs initially alleged that Schaefer assisted the surgeons during the surgery, Plaintiffs now admit that Micael Beebe, rather than Schaefer, was the “actual technologist in the room . . . .” [Doc. No. 57');">57, 4');">4');">4');">4');">p. 4');">4');">4');">4]. Plaintiffs also state, “Beebe was the only employee of [Biotronic] present in the operating suite during the procedure . . . .” Id. at 2.

         Because Schaefer was not involved in the surgery, she could not have caused Mr. Aultman's alleged injuries. To this extent, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Plaintiffs' claims against Schaefer are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.[8]

         C. Plaintiffs' ...

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