Trial Court Shouldn’t Have Punished Medical Patient for Expert Witness’ Disappearance

Personal injury cases involve lots of evidence and lots of witnesses. Managing all of this can be very challenging, but an injury victim is still responsible for meeting his or her deadlines. However, as a recent Louisiana Court of Appeal ruling highlights, the victim is not responsible for forces outside his or her control and, in a case where a medical patient’s expert witness suddenly disappeared, she should have received extra time to submit her evidence to the trial court.

The problems for Patricia Andre, a patient with cystic fibrosis, began when she was placed on the antibiotic drug Tobramycin in the hospital. After discharge, Andre continued receiving Tobramycin on an outpatient basis, administered by staff from HCS Infusion Network.

Andre received Tobramycin from HCS for five weeks until her kidneys began shutting down. She was suffering from toxicity that, she claimed, was the result of the antibiotic treatments. The patient sued both her doctor, the hospital, and HCS. She accused HCS of gross negligence in the way its staff carried out the delivery of the antibiotic treatments.

HCS asked the court to dismiss it from the case, arguing that the doctors were the ones responsible for ensuring that the patient was receiving the proper dosage and that it owed no duty to the woman. Andre challenged this argument and intended to offer the expert testimony of H. Joseph Byrd, a pharmacologist, to support her assertion that HCS shared part of the blame.

Andre’s case got much more complicated when Byrd abruptly retired. Andre did not know that the pharmacologist was retiring until after HCS filed its motion, and Byrd provided no forwarding information to the woman. Andre’s legal team searched diligently for the expert, but to no avail. She asked the trial court for more time. The trial court refused and decided to dismiss HCS from the case.

Andre appealed, and the appeals court sided with the patient. The trial court was wrong to focus only on the total length of the discovery period, which had spanned two and a half years. Instead, it should have focused on the fact that it was not until after HCS had filed its motion that the patient learned that her expert had disappeared.

Once the patient’s legal team learned of Byrd’s retirement, they began an all-out search for the pharmacologist, while also retaining a new expert to provide his opinion in support of the patient’s opposition to HCS’ motion. Parties should only receive extra time when good cause exists, but the facts in Andre’s case very clearly constituted good cause, and the trial court should have given the woman extra time to respond to HCS’ motion.

The treacherous path of Andre’s case highlights how arduous personal injury cases can be, and how difficult the process can be to navigate. Without legal counsel diligently fighting for her, Andre’s outcome might not have been as successful. If you or a loved one has been injured by doctors or other caregivers, reach out to the Louisiana medical malpractice attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our attorneys can help you diligently, aggressively, and intelligently pursue the recovery you deserve.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

How to Proceed with Your Medical Device Injury Case, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Nov. 27, 2014

Multi-Million Dollar Superdome Case, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, July 21, 2014

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