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Louisiana 3rd Circuit Declares Med Mal Act Unconstitutional For Nurse Practitioners

On November 17, 2010, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal issued a decision declaring Louisiana's cap on medical malpractice awards unconstitutional as it applies to nurse practitioners.  Specifically, in the case of Joe Olivier v. Magnolia Clinic, 09-439 (La. App. 3rd Cir. 11/17/10), the court determined that Louisiana's medical malpractice cap of $500,000 violates the equal protection clause of the Louisiana Constitution in that it discriminates against severely and catastrophically injured victims of medical malpractice committed by nurse practitioners in Louisiana.

This decision will undoubtedly be appealed to the conservative Louisiana Supreme Court which will have the final say so on the matter.   However, perhaps this decision can be an impetus to re-open a meaningful dialog between healthcare providers and victim's rights advocates to agree on legislation which can fix the now broken and antiquated medical malpractice laws in Louisiana which have existed since 1975. 

The essence of the court's opinion was that the State of Louisiana failed to meet its burden of establishing that the cap on damages, as it applies to nurse practitioners, is rationally related to any of the enunciated objectives set forth by the legislature when it created the cap. (Reducing healthcare costs, keeping doctors in this state, lowering malpractice premiums for physicians).   It discriminates by providing adequate compensation to those victims of malpractice who suffer damages less than $500,000, but capping the damages on those victims who suffer catastrophic injuries well in excess of the $500,000 cap.  In other words, it discriminates against the severely and catastrophically injured victims by forcing them to shoulder the economic burden for a group of healthcare providers who cause them harm.  The family unfairly pays for all harm above the cap because the healthcare provider's liability is capped at $500,000.