Court: Louisiana Supreme Court
Opinion Date: December 10, 2021
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, 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 2015, Dr. Robert Easton performed a left total hip arthroplasty on Mrs. Cheryl Mitchell, who had dislocated her hip. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Mitchell re-dislocated her hip and Dr. Easton performed a revision surgery. While Mrs. Mitchell was in the recovery room, Dr. Easton observed that she had “foot drop;” Dr. Easton performed a second surgery that same day. During the surgery, he discovered that Mrs. Mitchell’s sciatic nerve had been lacerated. Dr. Easton advised Mrs. Mitchell’s family of the situation and consulted with Dr. Rasheed Ahmad, a hand surgeon who handled nerve repairs for Dr. Easton’s medical group. Dr. Easton further advised Mrs. Mitchell that “time would tell how much, if any, function and sensory perception she would get back.” Unfortunately, Mrs. Mitchell’s foot drop never improved and she was left with sciatic nerve palsy. In 2017, Mrs. Mitchell and her husband Michael, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Easton, his employer, the Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic, L.L.C., and their insurers, Physician Assurance SPC. Defendants filed a peremptory exception of prescription, which the trial court granted, dismissing the action. The court of appeal affirmed, reasoning that, although Mrs. Mitchell continued to treat with Dr. Easton for more than a year after the alleged act of malpractice, that treatment was unrelated to the alleged act of malpractice. The Louisiana Supreme Court found no question the Mitchells, knew of the alleged act of malpractice within a day of its occurrence. “It is equally certain that suit was not filed against the treating physician, Dr. Robert Easton, within a year of the alleged malpractice. … The sole issue, therefore, is whether the prescription was suspended during this time period pursuant to the continuing treatment rule.” The Court determined the record supported the lower courts’ determinations that Mrs. Mitchell did not receive any specific care from Dr. Easton designed to correct or otherwise treat the injury related to the alleged act of malpractice. Even had Mrs. Mitchell received continuing treatment of her injury, the Court did not find Dr. Easton’s statements regarding her questionable prognosis to fall within the scope of the continuing treatment rule. Accordingly, under the specific circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court found the continuing treatment exception of contra non-valentem did not apply to suspend prescription in this case and affirmed the judgments below.