Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals in five appeals consolidated appeals for review to address two discrete issues – one related to pleading vicarious liability, and the other related to vicarious liability and apportionment. In August 2009, Keith Trabue’s wife, Shannon, suffered a catastrophic brain injury resulting from pulmonary edema leading to full cardiac arrest within days of giving birth to the couple’s daughter at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. At the hospital, Shannon was treated by physician-employees of Atlanta Women’s Specialists, LLC (AWS), including Dr. Stanley Angus and Dr. Rebecca Simonsen. Trabue and the bank serving as his wife’s conservator (Plaintiffs) later filed a medical malpractice action naming as defendants only Dr. Angus and AWS, although the complaint contained allegations regarding Dr. Simonsen’s conduct and alleged that AWS was vicariously responsible for the acts and omissions of both Dr. Angus and Dr. Simonsen. The complaint did not allege any independent acts of negligence on the part of AWS. At a two-week trial in 2017, after the close of the evidence, Dr. Angus and AWS, asked the court to require the jury to assess the percentages of fault of Dr. Angus and Dr. Simonsen and to apportion the damages between Dr. Angus and AWS under OCGA 51-12-33 (b). The Supreme Court asked the parties to brief two questions: (1) Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the plaintiffs sufficiently pled a claim for vicarious liability against AWS based on the conduct of Dr. Simonsen?; and (2) Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that, to obtain apportionment of damages with regard to the negligence of Dr. Simonsen, the defendants were required to comply with OCGA 51-12-33 (d) by filing a pretrial notice of nonparty fault? The Supreme Court answered both questions in the negative and affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment. View "Atlanta Women's Specialists, LLC et al. v. Trabue et al." on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals in five consolidated appeals to address two discrete issues – one related to pleading vicarious liability, and the other related to vicarious liability and apportionment. In 2009, Shannon Trabue suffered a catastrophic brain injury resulting from pulmonary edema leading to full cardiac arrest within days of giving birth to her daughter at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. At the hospital, Shannon was treated by physician-employees of AWS, including Dr. Stanley Angus and Dr. Rebecca Simonsen. Kenneth Trabue (husband) and the bank serving as his wife’s conservator (Plaintiffs) later filed a medical malpractice action naming as defendants only Dr. Angus and Atlanta Women’s Specialists, LLC (AWS), although the complaint contained allegations regarding Dr. Simonsen’s conduct and alleged that AWS was vicariously responsible for the acts and omissions of both Dr. Angus and Dr. Simonsen. The complaint did not allege any independent acts of negligence on the part of AWS. The issues the appellate court presented for the Supreme Court's review were: (1) whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that plaintiffs sufficiently pled a claim for vicarious liability against AWS based on Dr. Simonsen's conduct; and (2) whether the appellate court erred in holding that, to obtain apportionment of damages with regard to the negligence of Dr. Simonsen, the defendants were required to comply with OCGA 51-12-33 (d) by filing a pretrial notice of nonparty fault? The Supreme Court answered both questions in the negative and affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment. View "Atlanta Womens Specialists, LLC et al. v. Trabue et al." on Justia Law

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Shane Berryhill fainted and fell out of an 18-foot deer stand while hunting five days after undergoing major heart surgery. Plaintiffs Berryhill and his wife sued his surgeon, Dr. Dale Daly, and Savannah Cardiology (collectively “defendants”), claiming Daly’s negligent prescribing caused him to faint. The trial court instructed the jury on assumption of risk, and the jury returned a defense verdict. The Court of Appeals reversed and held that the instruction should not have been given. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari and found there was at least slight evidence presented at trial to warrant the instruction: Berryhill knew he had just had major surgery for serious cardiac problems, and evidence (although contradicted) existed to show that he had been instructed not to engage in strenuous activity and not to lift more than ten pounds, bend, or stoop over for at least seven days after his procedure. Even though Berryhill was not informed of the specific risk of fainting, violating such explicit medical instructions immediately after major heart surgery "poses an obvious cardiovascular risk to which competent adults cannot blind themselves," and constituted the slight evidence needed here to warrant a jury instruction. Judgment was reversed. View "Daly v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari review in Case Number S18G1189 to consider whether: (1) the standard that appellate courts should apply when reviewing a trial court’s ruling on a claim under OCGA 51-12-12; and (2) whether the Court of Appeals properly applied that standard in this case. In Case Number S181190, the Supreme Court questioned whether it was error for the appellate court to remand the case for retrial on both liability and damages, assuming the proper standard of review had been applied. Janice Evans fell violently ill and was taken to defendant Rockdale Hospital. What was first diagnosed as high blood pressure was later revealed to have been a blood clot to the brain from a ruptured aneurysm. She and her husband sued Rockdale for medical malpractice. Her damages totaled over $1 million. A jury found in Mrs. Evans’ favor, and awarded her husband damages for loss of consortium. Plaintiffs filed a new motion for additif or for a new trial on the ground that the jury’s damage award was so inadequate as to be inconsistent with the preponderance of the evidence. The Georgia Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals applied the wrong standard when reviewing the trial court’s decision, so that judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Rockdale Hospital, LLC v. Evans" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals in Thomas v. Tenet HealthSystem GB, 796 SE2d 301 (2017), to consider whether that court properly held that a claim of imputed simple negligence against a hospital, which was asserted in a second amended complaint, related back to the original complaint pursuant to OCGA 9-11-15 (c). Finding that the Court of Appeals was correct, the Supreme Court affirmed that court’s judgment. View "Tenet HealthSystem GA, Inc. v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Companion appeals raised questions about when a jury considering a medical malpractice case might also be instructed on issues of ordinary negligence. Sterling Brown Sr. sued the defendant medical centers and medical professionals individually and on behalf of his wife, Gwendolyn Brown, after she suffered catastrophic brain damage, allegedly from oxygen deprivation while undergoing a procedure to relieve back pain. Mrs. Brown died while this suit was pending, and the complaint was amended to add a wrongful death claim. A trial in which the court instructed the jury on both ordinary negligence and medical malpractice resulted in an award of nearly $22 million. A divided Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court granted the defendants’ petitions for certiorari to consider their argument that the Court of Appeals erred by concluding that the evidence supported a claim of ordinary negligence. "The plaintiffs’ case of medical malpractice was very strong. But a very strong case of medical malpractice does not become a case of ordinary negligence simply due to the egregiousness of the medical malpractice." The Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that an ordinary negligence instruction was authorized by evidence that a doctor defendant responded inadequately to medical data provided by certain medical equipment during a medical procedure. Because the verdict was a general one such that the Court could not determine that the jury did not rely on this erroneous theory of liability, it reversed with instructions that the Court of Appeals on remand order a full retrial as to defendants. View "Southeastern Pain Specialists, P.C. v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Companion appeals raised questions about when a jury considering a medical malpractice case might also be instructed on issues of ordinary negligence. Sterling Brown Sr. sued the defendant medical centers and medical professionals individually and on behalf of his wife, Gwendolyn Brown, after she suffered catastrophic brain damage, allegedly from oxygen deprivation while undergoing a procedure to relieve back pain. Mrs. Brown died while this suit was pending, and the complaint was amended to add a wrongful death claim. A trial in which the court instructed the jury on both ordinary negligence and medical malpractice resulted in an award of nearly $22 million. A divided Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court granted the defendants’ petitions for certiorari to consider their argument that the Court of Appeals erred by concluding that the evidence supported a claim of ordinary negligence. "The plaintiffs’ case of medical malpractice was very strong. But a very strong case of medical malpractice does not become a case of ordinary negligence simply due to the egregiousness of the medical malpractice." The Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that an ordinary negligence instruction was authorized by evidence that a doctor defendant responded inadequately to medical data provided by certain medical equipment during a medical procedure. Because the verdict was a general one such that the Court could not determine that the jury did not rely on this erroneous theory of liability, it reversed with instructions that the Court of Appeals on remand order a full retrial as to defendants. View "Southeastern Pain Specialists, P.C. v. Brown" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Appellee Sean Elliott filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Appellants Resurgens and Dr. Tapan Daftari in the State Court of Fulton County. Elliott alleged that Dr. Daftari failed to timely diagnose and treat an abscess in his thoracic spinal cord, which resulted in his paralysis. During trial four years later, Elliott attempted to call Savannah Sullivan, a nurse who was not specifically identified as a potential witness in either Elliott’s written discovery responses or in the parties’ pre-trial order (“PTO”). The trial court subsequently excluded Sullivan as a witness. After the jury returned a defense verdict, Elliott appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing that the trial court’s exclusion of Sullivan was error. The Court of Appeals agreed, reversing the jury’s judgment and remanding for a new trial. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred in its judgment, and reversed. View "Resurgens, P.C. v. Elliott" on Justia Law

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Bernard Norton, by and through Kim Norton, brought a wrongful death action against a number of defendants who were affiliated with a nursing home in which his wife, Lola Norton, died. Bernard claimed that negligent treatment caused Lola’s death. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration of all claims in accordance with an agreement entered into by Lola at the time she was admitted to the nursing home. The trial court granted the motion to stay and compel arbitration, and Bernard appealed, contending that, as a wrongful death beneficiary, he could not be bound to Lola’s arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and found that Lola’s beneficiaries were not required to arbitrate their wrongful death claims against the defendants. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether an arbitration agreement governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and entered into by a decedent and/or her power of attorney, which bound the decedent and her estate to arbitration, was also enforceable against the decedent’s beneficiaries in a wrongful death action. The Court found that such an arbitration agreement did bind the decedent’s beneficiaries with respect to their wrongful death claims, and, accordingly, reversed the Court of Appeals. View "United Health Services of Georgia, Inc. v. Norton" on Justia Law

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Iselda Moreno, wife of Rudy Robles, received liposuction, buttock augmentation, and abdominoplasty surgery performed by Dr. Patricia Yugueros of Artisan Plastic Surgery, LLC on June 24, 2009. Moreno went to the ER experiencing abdominal pains. Five days after the surgery, she died. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals to determine whether the appellate court was correct in holding that deposition testimony of an organizational representative taken under OCGA 9-11-30(b)(6) could be admitted into evidence at trial under OCGA 9-11-32(a)(2), without regard to the rules of evidence governing admissibility of expert testimony. Finding that the Court of Appeals erred, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Yugueros v. Robles" on Justia Law