Smith v. State Department of Health and Hospitals
Louisiana Supreme Court
676 So. 2d 543 (1996)
Benjamin Smith underwent foot surgery in August 1987. While at the hospital, Smith underwent a routine chest X-ray that showed a mass in his chest. The radiologist’s report noted the mass and recommended a computed-tomography (CT) scan to rule out lymphoma. The hospital discharged Smith without informing him of the X-ray findings. In October 1988, Smith returned to the hospital for chest pain and received a chest X-ray, which revealed that the mass in Smith’s chest had doubled in size. At that time, Smith learned of the results of the August 1987 X-ray. Smith was diagnosed with a fast-acting, lethal cancer and died several months later after undergoing aggressive treatment. Smith’s family (plaintiffs) sued the State Department of Health and Hospitals (the state) (defendant). The parties presented expert testimony that Smith had a chance of survival had he begun treatment after his August 1987 X-ray, and that Smith had a negligible chance of survival in October 1988. The trial court concluded that Smith’s family had failed to prove that the delay in treatment caused Smith’s death or a lost chance of survival. The appellate court reversed and held that damages should be calculated by determining the amount Smith’s family would receive for a wrongful-death claim and reducing that amount based on the percentage chance of survival Smith lost due to the state’s malpractice. The state appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lemmon, J.)
Dissent (Victory, J.)
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