MIAOULIS NOTE: This brings up an interesting concept of liability with regards to contingency planning and emergency prepardness. The organization was aware of a risk and did not implement new controls.
Three years before Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, a senior executive at Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital assessed its vulnerability to the sort of flooding that had been long feared there......
The LaCoste trial is set to begin on Monday. “This could be a new theory of liability against health care institutions — lack of emergency preparedness,” said Kristin McMahon, an attorney and chief claims officer for IronHealth, a company that insures hospitals. “The courts across the country will be looking at it.”
The case has already been precedent-setting in Louisiana. The state’s Supreme Court decided the allegations were based on general negligence claims, as opposed to medical malpractice in which damages would be capped at $500,000. This markedly increased hospital owners’ potential liability.
Mrs. LaCoste’s family alleges that the hospital was negligent for having inadequate emergency power systems, evacuation plans and floodwater protection. They say a fuel pump that failed after it was flooded caused the higher generator to shut down — an event they say could have been avoided if the hospital had invested less than $10,000 in a submersible pump.
The hospital’s owners argue in court filings that Hurricane Katrina was an “act of God” that could not be foreseen, that the hospital was not negligent, and that it would be unreasonable to expect a hospital to be impervious to all of the unlikely catastrophes its emergency plans contemplate, including tornadoes and a “terrorist event.”