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Request for Medical Review Panel By Wilson v. Whitfield

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 23, 2019


          On Appeal from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 658, 425 Honorable R. Michael Caldwell, Judge Presiding.

          Emily H. Posner, New Orleans, LA Cornelius Wilson Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellant,

          Vance A. Gibbs Attorneys for Defendants-Appellees, Randal R. Cangelosi Dr. Rani Whitfield and Jason R. Cashio Dr. Michael Stuart Deborah J. Juneau Baton Rouge, LA

          John Swanner Attorney for Defendant-Appellee, Baton Rouge, LA Dr. Charles Bridges


          HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

         Cornelius Wilson appeals a judgment that sustained exceptions raising the objection of prescription and dismissed his medical malpractice claims against Dr. Rani Whitfield, Dr. Michael Stuart, and Dr. Charles Bridges.


         In February 2015, Mr. Wilson was being held at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (EBRPP) as a pretrial detainee when he began experiencing problems with his throat. Specifically, Mr. Wilson complained of losing his voice and throat congestion. In order to address his symptoms, he requested medical treatment from EBRPP. From February 24, 2015, to August 31, 2015, Mr. Wilson was treated intermittently by defendants, Dr. Whitfield, Dr. Stuart, and Dr. Bridges, who are private medical physicians that were contracted to provide medical services to inmates at the EBRPP. Sometime prior to April 6, 2015, Mr. Wilson complained through a prison medical services grievance about the care he was receiving for his "lost voice," which was denied.[1]

         On September 20, 2016, Mr. Wilson filed a request with the Division of Administrative Law for the formation of a State Medical Review Panel ("MRP request"). In his MRP request, Dr. Whitfield, Dr. Stuart, and Dr. Bridges were named as defendants, and Mr. Wilson alleged that defendants failed to provide him with "appropriate medical treatment to prevent the timely discovery and diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma." In his MRP request, Mr. Wilson complained of treatment for his sore throat given by Dr. Whitfield on February 24, March 18, and April 29, 2015; by Dr. Bridges on May 12, 2015; and by Dr. Stuart on August 14, August 16 and August 31, 2015. Additionally in his MRP request, Mr. Wilson contends that, despite his worsening condition including a sore throat, productive cough, and hoarse voice, the doctors continued to prescribe the same treatment, namely antibiotics, Mucinex, Tylenol, and throat lozenges and did not refer him to a specialist to seek further treatment until August 31, 2015. In his MRP request, Mr. Wilson states that on August 31, 2015, Dr. Stuart conducted an examination of Mr. Wilson and recommended that Mr. Wilson be referred to an ENT specialist. However, when Mr. Wilson was scheduled to be seen by an ENT via TeleMed the video equipment did not work. Thus, Dr. Stuart recommended a face to face appointment, but such appointment "would not occur for months."

         Sometime around late October or early November, 2015, Mr. Wilson was transferred from EBRPP to the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC). According to his MRP request, on February 29, 2016, Dr. Rachel Barry, an otolaryngologist, examined Mr. Wilson and discovered a large tumor on his left vocal cord. The tumor was biopsied, and on March 23, 2016, Mr. Wilson was informed that he had squamous cell carcinoma cancer. On March 31, 2016, Mr. Wilson underwent a total laryngectomy with bilateral neck dissection. Mr. Wilson alleges in his MRP request that the actions and inactions of the doctors were a deviation from the applicable standard of care for treating persons exhibiting the symptoms he was having and their failures regarding his treatment caused him to suffer harm, including extreme pain and suffering and the total removal of his larynx.

         Subsequently, pursuant to La. R.S. 40:1231.8(B)(2)(a), which provides that a health care provider may raise the exception of prescription under La. R.S. 9:5628(A) in a court of competent jurisdiction and proper venue at any time without need for completion of the review process by the medical review panel, defendants filed exceptions of prescription in 19th Judicial District Court contending that Mr. Wilson's MRP request was prescribed.[2] In their exceptions, defendants stated that the malpractice claims against them are prescribed on the face of Mr. Wilson's MRP request, because he filed his request more than one year after the alleged malpractice. The defendants pointed out that they were qualified health care providers enrolled in the Louisiana Patient's Compensation Fund, which requires that any claims for medical malpractice asserted against them be presented to a Medical Review Panel prior to the filing of the lawsuit.

         The defendants' exceptions of prescription came before the trial court on August 14, 2017. After considering the evidence introduced into the record, and the arguments presented by counsel, the trial court signed a judgment on August 24, 2017, maintaining the exceptions of prescription filed on behalf of defendants, and dismissing Mr. Wilson's MRP request with prejudice. It is from this judgment that Mr. Wilson appeals, contending that: (1) the trial court erred in its legal and factual determination that Mr. Wilson's medical malpractice claims against the ...

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