Louisiana Record

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Louisiana Supreme Court upholds granting of new trial for parents in medical-negligence case

By Sam Knef | Mar 29, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Supreme Court has granted a new trial to a couple whose infant died following emergency-room treatment.

Defendants Dr. Rhoda Renee Jones and her insurer, Louisiana Medical Mutual Insurance Co., had been sued by parents David Pitts Jr. and Kenyetta Gurley over the death of their 7-month-old daughter, Lyric, who was seen in October 2011 at Hood Memorial Hospital in Amite.

Pitts and Gurley claimed that Jones, the treating physician, did not recognize that Lyric was a "sick baby" who should have been transferred to another facility for a higher level of care, according to court documents.

The baby was brought to the hospital at 6:20 p.m., had a seizure and stopped breathing at 3 a.m. while Jones was holding her, and was pronounced dead at 3:51 a.m., the cause of death being myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle.

The high court's March 15 ruling came with two findings. First, it affirmed the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruling that reversed the trial court's judgment notwithstanding.

According to the opinion, the trial-court judge in granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict, wrote, "The jury just got it totally wrong in this case. I am of the opinion that they were completely confused as to the applicable standard of care of an emergency-room physician at a semi-rural hospital. The medical-review panel was crystal clear with their unanimous assessment that the defendant physician was not under any obligation to properly diagnose with precision the specific illness or illnesses with which the child presented. The physician’s primary obligation was simply to recognize a very sick infant, and to immediately refer and transfer the child to a facility where proper care would be given.”

The Supreme Court also reversed the appeals court concerning the granting of a new trial, "finding no abuse of discretion in the district court's grant of a new trial.”

Chief Judge Bernette Johnson wrote the court's opinion.

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