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Frequently Asked Questions

Capitelli & Wicker
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White Collar Defense

What is “White Collar” crime?

White collar crime covers a broad category of criminal violations that are typically non-violent and involve allegations of fraud.

What are some examples of white collar crimes?

Environmental violations, Tax fraud, health care fraud, embezzlement, public bribery and extortion.

What should I do if the FBI or law enforcement agents show up at my home or business?

First you should determine whether or not there is a search warrant for your home or business.  If there is, you are required by law to allow the authorities to conduct their search and should interfere in any way.  You should immediately contact an attorney to start assisting you in this process.  If there is no search warrant and the authorities want to talk to you, you should consider contacting an attorney before doing so.  Every citizen has the right to have an attorney present when being questioned by law enforcement.  In many cases, you may want to consider consulting with an attorney and/or retaining the services of an attorney before discussing any matters with law enforcement authorities

What should I do if I receive a Grand Jury subpoena?

You should contact an attorney who has experience in handling matters before the Department of Justice or State agencies.  A Grand Jury subpoena indicates that the Federal government or a state law enforcement agency is investigating a matter which could potentially result in criminal exposure for you or your company.

Who prosecutes white collar crime?

White collar crimes are generally prosecuted by federal prosecutors along with federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA, EPA, ATF and DHH.  These crimes may also be prosecuted by state agencies including the State Attorney Generals’ offices.

Does the federal government have to inform me if I am the target of an investigation?

No there is no requirement that the federal authorities inform you or make you aware that you are under investigation. Typically, you may find out through receiving a grand jury subpoena or what is commonly referred to as a target letter.

What is a target letter?

A target letter is a letter sent by Department of Justice attorneys notifying you that the Government has reason to believe that you may have committed a federal violation of law.  If you receive a target letter, you should immediately contact an attorney.

Medical Malpractice

Can you give me an overview of the Medical Malpractice claim process in Louisiana?

The first step in pursuit of a claim for medical malpractice is to file a complaint with the patient’s compensation fund, managed by the state of Louisiana Division of Administration, requesting that a Medical Review Panel be convened. This sets in motion a series of events, which ultimately results in the convening of a Medical Review Panel consisting of three Louisiana licensed healthcare providers who render an opinion as to whether they believe, in their opinion, malpractice occurred, and if so, whether that malpractice resulted in injury to the patient. Once the panel has rendered an opinion, which often takes place after several years have passed from the time that the claim was filed, the plaintiff has ninety days (plus any “prescriptive period” time remaining as of the time that the claim was filed) to file a lawsuit in court. Once in court, the Plaintiff carries the burden of proof, and must support their case with expert opinion. This means that the plaintiff’s case will be dismissed unless an appropriate expert witness (usually a healthcare provider practicing in the same field as the Defendant) produces an opinion that the Defendant healthcare provider breached the standard of care, and that the breach of the standard of care resulted in injury to the patient. This is most often satisfied by Plaintiff’s counsel hiring an expert witness to produce this testimony for the Court. As to the meaning of “standard of care,” this term means nothing other than what a reasonably prudent healthcare provider, in his or her field of practice, would do under the same or similar circumstances. If the medical review panel ruled in favor of the Plaintiff, the medical review panel opinion satisfies this burden, allowing the case to proceed to trial without the necessity of hiring an additional expert witness.

Does the Medical Review Panel have the final say?

No. The opinion of the medical review panel is just that, an opinion. This opinion is used at a subsequent trial by the party who had a favorable opinion rendered by the panel. Most often, patients are not successful in obtaining a favorable opinion from a medical review panel. This does not prevent a plaintiff from filing a post-panel lawsuit in court.

What is the "prescriptive period"?

Prescription in the context of a lawsuit pertains to the time by which a claim must be filed. If a claim is not filed within the “prescriptive period,” any rights that a plaintiff may have will be lost, i.e., “prescribed.” In Louisiana, generally, a Plaintiff must file their claim within one year of the malpractice event. However, there are exceptions to this general rule. One such example is the “discovery rule,” which allows a plaintiff to file their claim within one year of discovering an act of malpractice. However, by statute, the “discovery rule” has been limited to three years, such that any claim must be filed within three years of the Defendant’s act of malpractice, regardless of when the Plaintiff “discovered” the act of malpractice.

Does the Damages Cap of $500,000 apply to all medical malpractice claims in Louisiana?

Generally, the statutory cap of $500,000 applies to any claim against a “qualified healthcare provider.” In the context of private practice (which carries a different set of rules as compared to a “State” healthcare provider working as an agent or employee of the State of Louisiana), a “qualified healthcare provider” is a healthcare provider who took the necessary steps to register with the patient’s compensation fund and prove that they carried sufficient insurance and/or assets to, among other things, cover their maximum personal exposure of $100,000 for claims asserted against them. Notably, the $500,000 cap does NOT apply to medical expenses, which often far exceed $500,000.

How does the Court decide the amount of damages awarded to a victim of medical malpractice?

The “finder of fact” is ultimately who awards damages to a Plaintiff. Most often, the finder of fact is a jury. Sometimes, the fact finder is the judge who presides over the case. Whomever serves as the finder of fact is granted broad discretion in awarding the amount of damages to a victim of medical malpractice. The amount awarded is supposed to make the Plaintiff (or the Plaintiff’s family) whole again, compensating the Plaintiff for their suffering, losses, and medical expenses. Further, the award should be sufficient to “deter” the Defendant’s conduct in the future, but not too much so as to “punish” the Defendant for their actions. Further, the fact finder is required to allocate fault in the State of Louisiana. This means that the fact finder must allocate, on a percentage basis, how much “fault” is attributable to anyone responsible for the injuries, regardless of whether any such party is a Defendant in the lawsuit. Once the fact finder has placed an allocation as to a particular Defendant’s percentage of fault, that Defendant is responsible for paying their percentage of the Plaintiff’s total damages award. For example, if the fact finder awards $100,000 of damages to compensate a victim of medical malpractice, and allocates 10% fault to the Defendant, the Defendant is only responsible for $10,000 of the damages award.

What is considered medical malpractice?

Defining medical malpractice is not an easy task. The Louisiana Supreme Court has acknowledged this, and has provided a list of factors for trial courts to consider when deciding whether a Defendant’s conduct constitutes “medical malpractice” as opposed to general negligence. Most often, Defendants desperately want their conduct to be considered “medical malpractice” because otherwise, they would not be entitled to the protections provided by the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act, which includes limitation of personal liability to $100,000 and a requirement that their care and treatment be reviewed by a Medical Review Panel before a lawsuit is filed in Court. It is very rare that a healthcare provider’s conduct is considered to be outside the definition of “medical malpractice.”

If a healthcare provider failed to warn a patient of risks involving a medical procedure, can the provider be sued?

The short answer is yes, however, these sorts of cases, referred to as “informed consent” cases, are rarely successful for a number of reasons. First, a healthcare provider is only required to inform their patients of “material” risks, and the material risk must actually transpire as a consequence of the surgery. What constitutes a “material” risk is determined by what a “reasonable person,” not necessarily the actual Plaintiff, would want to know before consenting to the procedure. Further, not only must it be proven that the Plaintiff would not have consented to the procedure had they been informed of the particular risk, it must be established that a “reasonable person” would not have consented to the procedure had they been informed of the particular risk. The issue as to whether a “reasonable person” would have proceeded with the surgery had they been informed of the risk at issue is left to the discretion of the fact finder at trial. Further, the question of what risks are “material” requires expert testimony to establish the likelihood and ultimate severity of the risk at issue, and it must also be proven that a “reasonably prudent” healthcare provider in the Defendant’s field of practice would have warned the Plaintiff of the particular risk which was not disclosed.

Contact Louisiana Attorneys

Capitelli & Wicker understands that you have many choices when choosing an attorney. We are committed to representing all of our clients to the best of our abilities and strive to treat each of our clients the way we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes. It would be our honor to represent you.

Get in touch with us by either calling us at 504-582-2425 or scheduling a consultation online.

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