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Kelleher v. University Medical Center Management Corp.

doctor in operating room

Court: Louisiana Supreme Court

Docket: 2021-CC-00011

Opinion Date: December 10, 2021

Judge: Crichton

Areas of Law: Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury

This case law update is brought to you by Freeway Law auto accident and personal injury lawyers in Orange County. The following is not one of our cases, but it is of some significance, and we thought we should share it with our readers for informational purposes. The information above is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.

In late 2018, plaintiff Teresa Kelleher began to experience pain in her thoracic spine. Plaintiff was ultimately found to have an abscess in her thoracic spine with positive marrow infiltration around the T2 and T3 vertebrae. A 2019 bone biopsy-confirmed acute and chronic osteomyelitis (bone infection). Plaintiff alleged she was neurologically intact and ambulatory at that time. Plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Felipe Ramirez, referred her to an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Julio Figueroa, who was affiliated with the LSU-Health Sciences Center-New Orleans, who recommended “prompt” treatment with antibiotics. Plaintiff alleged, however, she was told that the defendant University Medical Center Management Corporation d/b/a University Medical Center New Orleans (“UMC”) would contact her to schedule an appointment for treatment at its Infectious Disease (“ID”) Clinic. Having not heard from anyone for several days, she called UMC to inquire about her appointment status and was told to “be patient” because “it was Christmastime.” In January 2019, the plaintiff was taken to Touro Infirmary with lower extremity paralysis. Her osteomyelitis had progressed to the point that she lost the neurological function of her lower extremity. Despite treatment at Touro, the plaintiff was rendered paraplegic due to the progressed osteomyelitis. In August 2019, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice complaint against UMC, Dr. Figueroa, and the State of Louisiana through the Board of Supervisors of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College and LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans (“LSU”). Two months later, the plaintiff filed suit in district court against Dr. Figueroa and UMC for, inter alia, “failing to properly train administrative personnel to schedule appointments [and] failing to arrange for the promised prompt appointment for [plaintiff].” Defendants responded with dilatory exceptions of prematurity asserting the claims were not solely “administrative,” and were therefore covered by the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act and had to be submitted to a medical review panel. The trial court, without giving reasons, granted Dr. Figueroa’s and LSU’s exception but denied UMC’s exception. The Louisiana Supreme Court found plaintiff did not qualify as a “patient” of UMC under the definitions in the Act. The Court, therefore, affirmed the trial court’s denial of the dilatory exception of prematurity and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

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