Louisiana Record

Monday, September 23, 2019

Louisiana appeals court tosses doctor's defamation suit

By Elizabeth Alt | Feb 19, 2018

BATON ROUGE — The First Circuit Court of Appeals for Louisiana on Jan. 23 agreed with a trial court that a man's request for a medical review panel (MRP) was not sufficient grounds to continue a lawsuit filed by the reviewed doctor.

Dr. Richard Jeansonne filed an appeal after a trial court dismissed his defamation and malicious prosecution after determine that the MRP, which included other healthcare providers and ultimately found no fault from Jeansonne, did not constitute malicious prosecution.

“To find that there is a cause of action for malicious prosecution arising out of a (MRP) proceeding would run contrary to one of the main purposes of the (MRP), which is to screen and filter meritless claims prior to the filing of an actual (lawsuit)," the appeals court wrote in its opinion. 

After Elaine Bonano died in 2012, Elaine's husband, Ferdinand Bonano, requested an MRP, claiming that Jeansonne and other ER medical providers improperly diagnosed his wife with a urinary tract infection prior to her death. According to the court, several days after Jeansonne saw Elaine Bonano, she was admitted to the ER again and was diagnosed with a kidney infection that Ferdinand Bonano said was “the beginning of the end," according to court documents.  

The panel ruled that Jeansonne had properly treated Elaine Bonano and specifically pointed out that Jeansonne had not seen her during her last hospital visit.

The husband did not pursue litigation after the medical review board's findings were announced, which the trial court noted.

After the review panel’s decision, however, Jeansonne filed a suit against Bonano for defamation and malicious prosecution, claiming that the panel’s determination in his favor allowed him to file the claim. 

"Although Mr. Bonano did not pursue litigation after the unfavorable MRP determination, Dr. Jeansonne nevertheless maintains that the MRP's conclusion was tantamount to a bona fide resolution in his favor which is sufficient to support a claim for malicious prosecution," Jeansonne's suit stated.

Jeansonne alleged that the review and surrounding events could tarnish his professional reputation. 

“Mr. Bonano knew Dr. Jeansonne could not have been responsible for Mrs. Bonano's death, and he had no evidence to support or even suggest such a claim when he requested the formation of the (MRP)," court documents filed in the defamation suit stated.

The appeals court also said that Jeansonne hadn’t filed his defamation claim within the required timeframe after the medical panel’s determination that the doctor had not done anything wrong.

Justices Vanessa G. Whipple, Michael McDonald and Wayne Ray Chutz sat on the panel for the case, with Chutz writing the court opinion.

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Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal