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Peiffer Wolf Scores Big Win for Victims of Medical Malpractice and Nursing Home Abuse in Louisiana

Peiffer Wolf Partner Dan Centner and co-counsel Kara Samuels just obtained a Louisiana Supreme Court opinion that will make it easier for victims of medical malpractice and nursing home abuse to obtain justice for their injuries.

Navigating the Legal Hurdles of Medical Malpractice and Nursing Home Abuse

“We’re very proud of our work on this case. This win benefits not only our client, but all victims of medical malpractice and nursing home abuse in the State of Louisiana. It provides much-needed clarity in the law, and more importantly helps victims level the playing field. There are still a lot of problems with the ‘immunity’ statute, but at least we now know when it applies, and when it does not.” -Dan Centner

Partner Dan Centner and co-counsel Kara Samuels secured a pivotal victory at the district court, successfully defended that win on appeal, and ultimately triumphed at the Louisiana Supreme Court. 

Louisiana has some of the most onerous medical malpractice laws in the country. The state’s Medical Malpractice Act caps damages for malpractice victims at $500,000, and also requires that these victims submit their claims to a “medical review panel” comprised of three doctors within the defendant’s same field (and often, within the same community) before the victim is allowed to even file a lawsuit. These doctors are supposed to determine whether the defendant breached the appropriate medical standard of care. The process is costly and expensive, and often prevents injured victims from ever getting their day in court.  By some estimates more than 9 out of 10 review panels find in favor of the defendant doctors.

The situation was made even worse for victims during and after the Covid pandemic, as Louisiana, like many other states, enacted an “immunity” statute requiring malpractice victims to prove their physician was “grossly negligent” in order to recover damages at trial. The concept of “gross negligence” is a heightened legal standard that confuses plaintiffs, defendants, and judges alike.  

Doctors and defense lawyers quickly seized on the “immunity” statute and argued that it applied not only at trial, but also at the threshold “medical review panel” stage. In response, victims argued that the “gross negligence” standard applies in court, only, and that review panelists are doctors (not lawyers or judges) who should stick to determining what they know –  “medical negligence”. This debate created significant confusion and uncertainty in review panels across the state and has made it even more difficult for injured victims to achieve justice.

In Sebble, the Louisiana Supreme Court resolved this issue once and for all, clarifying that medical review panelists must consider the medical standard of care, only, and leave “gross negligence” for the courts to decide. Our dedicated attorneys and co-counsel have been at the forefront of this battle.