Monday, January 11, 2010

Hurricane Katrina: Lawsuit based on Death of Hospital Patient Proceeds in Louisiana

Once the power blinked out, Althea LaCoste's lungs were on their own. She struggled to breathe without the help of a respirator, and even a team of nurses hand-bagging air into her ailing lungs couldn't save her, according to court documents. LaCoste, 73, died before she could be evacuated from Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina.

LaCoste's death 4½ years ago is at the center of a civil lawsuit being heard here that could have far-reaching implications for hospitals across the country. The lawsuit against Methodist Hospital is the first civil suit alleging negligence of a hospital staff in Katrina's aftermath.

Here is the article: Link.

I disagree with a hospital industry's statement in that article that:"A verdict against the hospital would open up a Pandora's box for other unrelated incidents," Also, a professor remarked: "The LaCoste lawsuit could make hospitals across the country liable if their power gets knocked out by snowstorms, tornadoes or other calamities, says Edward Sherman, a Tulane University law professor following the case."

Here, you have a case not relating to medical malpractice, in a state where the laws are different that those of any other state. As one authority explains: Great differences exist between Louisianan civil law and common law found in all other American states. Property, contractual, business entities structure, much of civil procedure, and family law are still strongly influenced by traditional Roman legal thinking. Louisiana law retains terms and concepts unique in American law: usufruct, forced heirship, redhibition, and lesion beyond moiety are a few examples.

Second, it's one thing to read the pleadings, the issues, and the allegations/admitted facts. It's quite another to suggest that a snowstorm that knocks out power will now cause liability to arise in say Iowa because of one jury verdict in Louisiana.

If you do nothing else this year, read The Great Deluge. It's a detailed look at what happened just before, during, and after Katrina not only in New Orleans but in the Gulf South.