A federal appeals court has reversed a jurys 2006 conclusion that a Louisiana hospital was in part responsible for a near fatal mistake for failing to disclose information about an anesthesiologists drug problem to another hospital seeking its referral before credentialing him.
Under Louisiana law, 159-bed Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington was required only to avoid misrepresentations, according to the opinion issued May 8 by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Lakeview Regional, therefore, wasnt negligent in responding to a request from 181-bed Kadlec Medical Center, Richland, Wash., with a letter that merely confirmed that the physician had been on its medical staff and specified the dates he started and ended his tenure.
Healthcare lawyer Yvonne Puig, a partner in Fulbright & Jaworski, Austin, Texas, observed that hospitals already responded to the verdict by taking a more aggressive approach to disclosure. It would be wrong for them to conclude now that the approach is unnecessary, Puig said, because the ruling relies on an unusual nuance of Louisiana law.
The anesthesiologist, Robert Berry, was investigated by a management team at Lakeview Regional after nurses reported suspicious withdrawals of Demerol, according to the facts of the case laid out in the opinion. Berry was fired by his practice, Louisiana Anesthesiology Associates, in March 2001 after violating a monitoring agreement. In October, he sought traveling physician privileges at Kadlec, where in November 2002 he allegedly botched the treatment of a patient now in a permanent vegetative state.
Lakeview Regional had been ordered to pay a portion of $5.5 million judgment, which the U.S. District Court in New Orleans will be asked to revise. The appeals court upheld the judgment against Berrys former practice and two shareholders, who wrote letters praising his qualifications soon after theyd written in his termination letter that he put patients at significant risk. -- by Gregg Blesch
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