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Supreme Court Accepts Lawsuit Involving Gallbladder Surgery Errors

Courtroom JusticeThe Louisiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear a medical malpractice case that was originally heard in a lower court in March 2013. The complaint involves an error during gallbladder surgery that the plaintiff alleges led to significant damage to the liver and the subsequent need for liver surgery at another hospital.

2010 surgery leads to problems

Richard Logan underwent surgery in 2010 to have his gallbladder removed. During the operation, the surgeon Donald Schwab cut what he thought was the connecting structure for the cystic duct. Instead, the surgeon cut the connecting structure to the bile duct, leading to leakage of bile from the liver and liver damage.

Dr. Schwab told the jury in 2013 that the error occurred because Logan’s cystic duct had been “obliterated” due to Logan’s medical condition. When the error occurred, Dr. Schwab contacted a liver transplant surgeon and transferred Logan to the surgeon’s hospital in New Orleans. The specialist handled the surgery of Logan’s liver to repair the damage that occurred.

Logan filed a malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Schwab, stating the surgeon breached a standard level of care during Logan’s operation. Logan’s wife, Carrie Logan, also joined the lawsuit, alleging her husband’s injuries led to a loss of spousal benefits.

3-day trial ends in decision for defendant

The original trial took three days to complete. At the end of the trial, the jury determined the plaintiffs had not sufficiently proven that the doctor had breached a standard of care. The plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial, but it was denied. The couple then lodged an appeal, stating the judge’s conduct during the trial improperly influenced the jury to the defendant’s side. They also alleged the judge erred in letting certain expert testimony into the trial.

The appeal was also denied by the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Louisiana on July 7, 2015. The appeals court categorically denied allegations by the plaintiff that the judge’s behavior influenced the jury or that expert testimony offered by the defendants was invalid.

The plaintiffs turned their sights toward having their case heard in the Louisiana Supreme Court. On November 20, 2015, the Supreme Court granted the Logan’s application. There is no word at this time as to when that hearing will take place.

Defining medical malpractice

The American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys defined medical malpractice as occurring when “a hospital, doctor or other healthcare professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient.” In order for a medical malpractice claim to be valid, the plaintiff must be able to prove three things; there was a breach of standard care, the breach caused an injury to the patient and the injury resulted in significant damages for the patient.

There were more than 3,800 medical malpractice payout reports filed in Louisiana in 2014, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). Diederich Healthcare estimates that $40-60 million was made in medical malpractice payouts in the state in 2013.

The most common reason for medical malpractice was diagnostic errors, followed closely by surgical errors. Around 96 percent of medical malpractice cases are settled, while just four percent head to trial like Logan’s case did. Nearly half (45 percent) of malpractice cases involved inpatient care.

  1. Daily Comet, State Supreme Court Takes Up Houma Couple’s Medical Malpractice Case,

  2. Justia, Richard Bryant Logan and Carrie Logan vs. Dr. Donald Paul Schwab, Jr.,

  3. Louisiana Supreme Court, News Release #057,

  4. National Practitioner Data Bank, NPBD Research Statistics,

  5. Diederich Healthcare, 2014 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis,