The Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport recently reversed a ruling by Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wilson Rambo who dismissed claims against a local assisted living center stemming from a resident’s injuries there.
The appeal court’s Nov. 15 opinion concerned the case, In Re: Medical Review Panel Proceeding of Mildred Louise Lyons. The opinion was written by Second Circuit Judge Milton Moore, of Monroe, on behalf of a three-judge panel also including Second Circuit Judge Frances Pitman and ad hoc Judge Harmon Drew Jr.
The case concerned the late Mildred Lyons, who in 2012 was an 84-year-old resident at St. Joseph’s Home Assisted Living Center in Monroe. She lived in an apartment on the third floor, from which she fell 21 feet from an open window and was injured, according to police.
The Second Circuit’s opinion contained a detailed summary of the facts in the case.
Earlier in the day prior to her injury, staff found Lyons wandering the parking lot looking for her car, which she no longer possessed. According to Second Circuit’s ruling, Lyons suffered from dementia.
After she was found absent during an 11 p.m. bed check, staff found her lying unconscious on the ground outside the building, below her window. The police officer assigned to investigate wrote that Lyons sustained brain bleeding and several bone fractures to her legs, hip and ribs among other injuries, though she later recovered.
Lyons died nearly three years later, and her sister, Theresa Henderson, initiated the legal action against the assisted living center.
Part of Henderson’s appeal to the Second Circuit centered on Rambo’s ruling that Christus Health Central of Louisiana’s assisted living center is not a “health care provider” and could not be sued for medical malpractice. Christus Health Central of Louisiana owns the assisted living center.
Rambo upheld Christus Health’s arguments on a motion for summary judgment, explaining in written reasons for judgment that the services provided Lyons at the assisted living center did not constitute “health care” as defined by the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act, according to the Second Circuit.
The Second Circuit disagreed.
“In short, the defendant, Christus Health Central Louisiana d/b/a Christus St. Joseph’s Home, has presented little more than argument, where proof by documentation is needed, that its assisted living facility is not a health care provider qualified by the (Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund, or PCF),” Moore wrote. “Accordingly, we conclude that the defendant in this PCF complaint, Christus Health Central Louisiana d/b/a St. Joseph’s Home is a health care provider qualified under the Act.”
The Second Circuit based its decision by noting that Lyons had a history of wandering or getting lost, which was observed by assisted living center administrators. There were acts or treatments which the assisted living center should have performed for Lyons to prevent her injury, the appeal court ruled.
“It is indisputable that Alzheimer’s disease and the associated dementia that Ms. Lyons suffered from was a medical condition that required health care treatment,” Moore wrote. “In our view, by virtue of its agreement to monitor her health and needs for special services and to take the appropriate measures to provide such care, its failure to secure the safety of Ms. Lyons was an omission constituting health care as defined by the Act as it was ‘any act or treatment performed or furnished, or which should have been performed or furnished, by any health care provider for, to, or on behalf of a patient during the patient’s medical care, treatment, or confinement.’”