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Hanagriff v. Preferred Professional Insurance Company

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

April 18, 2018



          Daniel E. Broussard, Jr., Broussard, Halcomb & Vizzier COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLANTS: Kay Hanagriff Kay Hanagriff, o/b/o Abigail Frick Alexa Yanez

          Elizabeth Fontenot Shea, J. Gregory Bergstedt Fraser, Wheeler, Bergstedt & Courtney, LLP COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: Preferred Professional Insurance Company Shondra L. Smith, M.D.

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D. Saunders, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.


         This is a case involving a medical malpractice action. Plaintiff instituted an action against her physician and the physician's professional liability insurance carrier (collectively "Defendants"), alleging that Defendants breached the applicable standard of care in the care and treatment of Plaintiff on September 22, 2008.

         On March 2, 2015, this case came before a jury. After a four-day trial, on March 5, 2015, the jury rendered a verdict adverse to Plaintiff.

         On March 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, Or in the Alternative, Motion for New Trial. The motion was heard on June 2, 2017. Judgment was rendered denying the motion on June 21, 2017.

         Plaintiff now appeals that judgment. Her argument is that Defendants failed to furnish Plaintiff with diligent and skillful care; failed to adequately monitor Plaintiff given her expressed symptoms to ensure that she did not fall from the examination table while under Defendants' care; failed to exercise the requisite amount of care and supervision that Plaintiff's condition required; failed to take reasonable steps to promote continuity of appropriate medical care of Plaintiff; and failed to exercise the reasonable degree of skill and competency ordinarily employed by members of the medical profession practicing in the same specialty as Defendants.


         On September 22, 2008, Plaintiff, Kay Hanagriff ("Ms. Hanagriff"), underwent two punch biopsies at the office of Shondra L. Smith, M.D. ("Dr. Smith"), a dermatologist. During the procedure, Ms. Hanagriff advised Dr. Smith that she felt queasy, and Dr. Smith instructed Nurse Mindy Walling ("Nurse Walling"), who was assisting her, to place an ice pack on Ms. Hanagriff's neck, which she did. Ms. Hanagriff stated that the ice pack was helping and that she was starting to feel better.

         After the procedure, which was completed in approximately five to ten minutes, Nurse Walling remained in the exam room placing bandages on Ms. Hanagriff as she continued to talk to her to ensure that she was feeling better; Ms. Hanagriff confirmed that she was. Prior to momentarily leaving the exam room, Nurse Walling instructed Ms. Hanagriff to remain lying on the exam table until a staff member came back to check on her.

         Shortly thereafter, Dr. Smith instructed Diana Perry Beaugh, LPN ("Nurse Beaugh") to check on Ms. Hanagriff, which she did. Nurse Beaugh noted that Ms. Hanagriff was "awake, alert and oriented", and in response to Nurse Beaugh's inquiry as to how she was feeling, Ms. Hanagriff stated "I feel much better." At that time, Nurse Beaugh informed Ms. Hanagriff that she would have her sit up with her feet extended for a short period and adjusted the exam table accordingly to allow Ms. Hanagriff to do so. Prior to leaving the exam room, Nurse Beaugh warned Ms. Hanagriff not to get off the exam table or try to stand until a staff member came in to assist her.

         Nurse Walling, who was with another patient in the exam room next to the one Ms. Hanagriff occupied, heard a noise that she described as "metal-on-metal" which she determined to be the sound of the leg extensions on the exam table being pushed in. When Nurse Walling entered Ms. Hanagriff's exam room, she was off the exam table and appeared to be falling to the floor, so she took Ms. Hanagriff by the arm and gently assisted her to the floor, where she remained until Dr. Smith entered the room to evaluate her. When Dr. Smith informed Ms. Hanagriff that she was going to write a prescription for a CT scan of the head and cervical spine, Ms. Hanagriff refused, stating "I just want to go home." Ms. Hanagriff also repeatedly stated that she was embarrassed about the situation.

         Approximately fifteen to twenty minutes later, Dr. Smith's office manager and licensed pharmacist, Cindy Reed ("Ms. Reed"), entered the exam room to take Ms. Hanagriff's blood pressure, which was normal. At that time, Ms. Hanagriff complained that her head hurt when she moved her neck.

         Approximately ten minutes later, Dr. Smith instructed her billing manager, Kissney Traub ("Ms. Traub"), to take Ms. Hanagriff to Women's & Children's Hospital emergency room for further evaluation. Upon their arrival, Dr. Akanbi, the ER physician, examined Ms. Hanagriff and performed a CT scan of the head and cervical spine. Those tests revealed no significant abnormalities, except muscle spasms. Later that day, Dr. Akanbi informed Dr. Smith that he had prescribed Ms. Hanagriff a muscle relaxer and a soft neck brace, and that she would be fine.

         The following day Dr. Smith called Ms. Hanagriff to check on her status, and spoke with her mother, who told her that she was sleeping. Later that day, Dr. Smith placed another call to Ms. Hanagriff's cell phone and left a message.

         On September 26, 2008, Dr. Smith spoke with Ms. Hanagriff regarding her biopsy results. Ms. Hanagriff reported that her neck was sore, that she was having trouble sleeping, and that she had been seen by her primary care physician, who told her that she had a muscle strain. When Dr. Smith asked Ms. Hanagriff whether she had any bruising, she replied that she did not.

         On September 29, 2008, Dr. Smith saw Ms. Hanagriff for the last time. At that time, Ms. Hanagriff stated that she was still slightly stiff in the neck but had returned to work.

         On or about September 22, 2009, Ms. Hanagriff filed a complaint with the Louisiana Patient's Compensation Fund ("PCF"), requesting a review of the medical care provided to her by ...

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