PHYLLIS TEBAULT, PATRICIA DELAVALLADE, ALMERIA WILLIAMS, ANTHONY JACKSON, EILEEN JONES, ZAKIYA JACKSON, AND DORIS MONCONDUIT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS HEIRS OF THELMA JACKSON
EAST JEFFERSON GENERAL HOSPITAL, DR. ARZU HATIPOGLUGREEN, DR. RENE DEBOISBLANC, AND DR. CHRISTIAN SCHEUERMANN IN RE EAST JEFFERSON GENERAL HOSPITAL
APPLYING FOR SUPERVISORY WRIT FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL
DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA,
DIRECTED TO THE HONORABLE MICHAEL E. KIRBY, AD HOC, DIVISION
''E'', NUMBER 708-607
composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Jude G.
Gravois, and Stephen J. Windhorst
GRANTED; RELIEF DENIED
matter comes before us on supervisory review of the district
court's August 31, 2018 judgment denying relator's,
East Jefferson General Hospital's, "Motion for
Summary Judgment Regarding Immunity." As the issue
reviewed here presents to the Court a question of law res
nova, this writ is granted. However, for the reasons
fully discussed below, we find no error in the district
court's judgment and deny relief.
matter arises from the August 31, 2007 death of Thelma
Jackson which occurred while she was a patient at East
Jefferson General Hospital (EJGH). Her heirs timely filed a
petition for damages on November 18, 2011, stating claims
against EJGH, Dr. Christian Scheuermann, and two other
physicians arising out of malpractice. In an amended
petition, plaintiffs asserted, in relevant part, an
additional cause of action against EJGH for negligently
credentialing Dr. Christian Scheuermann.
filing its answer and affirmative defense, EJGH filed a
"Motion for Summary Judgment Regarding Immunity,"
arguing that in this case, in which the plaintiffs seeking
redress are the children of a deceased patient, defendant
hospital and physician are immunized from damages as to the
negligent credentialing claim under La. R.S. 13:3715.3(C) and
42 U.S.C. § 11101, the federal Health Care Quality
Improvement Act (HCQIA). On August 22, 2018, the district
court heard argument on the motion, denying it based on the
Louisiana Supreme Court's Gauthreaux v. Frank,
95-1033 (La. 6/16/95) decision cautioning against reading
privileges afforded hospitals in La. R.S. 13:3715.3 too
broadly,  specifically stating, "the
Motion for Summary Judgment is denied on the basis of the
Gauthreaux decision that I just read." It is
from this ruling relator seeks supervisory review.
writ application, EJGH asserts that, as La. R.S. 13:3715.3
and 42 U.S.C. § 11101 et. seq. (HCQIA) provide
EJGH immunity from damages for plaintiffs' claims against
it arising from negligent credentialing, the district court
committed an error of law when it denied EJGH's current
motion for summary judgment as to those specific claims. EJGH
argues that the credentialing process is defined by the
statutes and jurisprudence as "peer review" and
that both statutes grant immunity to the hospital and others
for peer review, which, by statute includes credentialing.
Thus, EJGH argues the hospital is entitled to have the
negligent credentialing cause of action against it dismissed
summary judgment is favored, movant bears the burden of
proving at the outset not only that there are no genuine
issues of material fact, but also that it is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. La. C.C.P. art. 966(D)(1). The
party seeking immunity pursuant to statute, here relator,
also bears the burden of proving that the statutory immunity
in question applies to the particular set of facts currently
at issue. See generally, Champagne v. American
Alternative Insurance Corporation, 12-1697 (La.
3/19/13), 112 So.3d 179, 183.
question before us is simply, does either the 1986 HCQIA or
La. R.S. 13:3715.3 immunize hospitals from suits brought by
or on behalf of patients alleging negligent credentialing,
i.e., that the hospital negligently afforded the opportunity
to the health care professional to engage in patient care
within the hospital. As the issue comes before us as a matter
of first impression, we are called upon to engage in the
statutory interpretation of the HCQIA and La. R.S. 13:3715.3.
interpreting a statute, the paramount consideration is
ascertainment of the legislative intent and the reason or
reasons which prompted the legislature to enact the law.
Wiltz v. Bros. Petroleum, L.L.C., 13-332 (La.App. 5
Cir. 4/23/14), 140 So.3d 758, 784, citing State v.
Johnson, 03-2993 (La. 10/19/04), 884 So.2d 568, 575. As
a general rule, statutory interpretation begins with the
language of the statute itself. David v. Our Lady of the
Lake Hosp., Inc., 02-2675 (La. 7/2/03), 849 So.2d 38,
46. La. R.S. 1:3 directs that words and phrases in a statute
"shall be read with their context and shall be construed
according to the common and approved usage of the language.
Technical words and phrases, and such others as may have
acquired a peculiar and appropriate meaning in the law, shall
be construed and understood according to such peculiar and
appropriate meaning." When the wording of a statute is
clear and free of ambiguity, the letter of it shall not be
disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit. La.
R.S. 1:4. Nevertheless, the legislative history of an act and
contemporaneous circumstances may be helpful guides in
ascertaining legislative intent. Billeaudeau v. Opelousas
Gen. Hosp. Auth., 16-0846 (La. 10/19/16), 218 So.3d 513,
sense is also a permissible consideration in statutory
interpretation, even when the statute is penal in nature or
requires a strict construction for other reasons. See and
compare U.S. v. Picquet, 963 F.2d 54, 56 (5th
Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 902, 113 S.Ct.
290, 121 L.Ed.2d 215 (1992) (criminal statute) and Haynes
v. Mangham, 375 So.2d 103, 105 (La. 1979) (adoption
statute). When interpreting a law that must be strictly
construed, courts should not interpret it in a way that makes
it meaningless and ineffective. Haynes, 375 So.2d at
106, citing In re Ackenhausen, 244 La. 730, 154
So.2d 380 (1963).
general rule, statutes granting immunities or advantages to a
special class in derogation of the general rights available
to tort victims must be strictly construed against limiting
the tort claimants' rights against the wrongdoer.
Williams v. Jackson Parish Hosp., 00-3170 (La.
10/16/2001), 798 So.2d 921, 926 citing Branch v.
Willis-Knighton Medical Center, 92-3086 (La. 4/28/94),
636 So.2d 211, 215, 217. Immunity statutes, therefore, are
strictly construed against the party claiming immunity.
Weber v. State, 635 So.2d 188, 193 (La. 1994). Any
doubts as to the application must be construed against the
application to a specific set of facts.
federal qualified immunity provision was approved on November
14, 1986 and enacted as part of the 1986 Health Care Quality
Improvement Act (HCQIA), providing states the opportunity to
enact their own statutes which could be broader in scope. The
HCQIA did not become effective in Louisiana until July 15,
1988. See La. Acts. No. 690 of 1988.
purpose of both the federal and Louisiana statutes is to
incentivize and protect physicians engaging in effective
professional peer review thereby reducing medical
malpractice, improving the quality of medical care, and
preventing incompetent physicians' movements from state
to state without disclosure of previous incompetent
performance. 42 U.S.C. § 11101; Granger v. Christus
Health Central Louisiana, 12-1892 (La. 6/28/13), 144
So.3d 736. The United States Supreme Court, in Patrick v.
Burget, described the effects of the federal statute as
it relates to the actions of peer-review
bodies. The Court stated that the federal statute
"essentially immunizes peer-review action from liability
if the action was taken 'in the reasonable belief that
[it] was in the furtherance of quality health
care.'" Patrick v. Burget, 486 U.S. 94,
106, 108 S.Ct. 1658, 1665, 100 L.Ed.2d 83, 95 n. 8 (1988).
The Court pointed out that states are free to expand the
scope of the state immunity statutes beyond the scope of the
federal statute. Id.
jurisprudence addressing the breadth of HCQIA and La. R.S.
13:3715.3(C) has been confined to physician filed suits
against a credentialing institution or body in instances in
which the institution has refused to credential or has
suspended or revoked the physician's credentials or
Smith v. Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, 93-2512 (La.
7/5/1994), 639 So.2d 730, 742, a case in which a disciplined
physician brought suit against the members of the medical
peer review board and hospital which terminated his staff
privileges, the Louisiana Supreme Court was called upon for
the first time to address the breadth of La. R.S.
13:3715.3(C). The Court granted certiorari on the res
nova issue presented to construe La. R.S 13:3715.3(C),
and to enunciate an analytical framework to facilitate the
pre-trial disposition of the applicability of the statutory
immunity from liability it provides peer review committee
members. In that case, applying the rules of