Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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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

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In 2008, Olga Zarate-Martinez filed a medical malpractice complaint against Dr. Michael D. Echemendia, Atlanta Women’s Health Group, P.C., Atlanta Women’s Health Group, II, LLC, and North Crescent Surgery Center, LLC (collectively “Echemendia”), for damages for injuries she sustained during an open laparoscopic tubal ligation that was allegedly negligently performed and which resulted in a perforated bowel. Zarate-Martinez attached to her complaint an affidavit from Dr. Errol G. Jacobi. She later identified Dr. Charles J. Ward as an expert for summary judgment purposes, but she never submitted an affidavit from Dr. Ward in support of her complaint. Echemendia deposed Dr. Ward and Dr. Jacobi, moved to strike the testimony from both doctors on the grounds that they did not qualify as experts, and also moved for summary judgment. Without any reference to some constitutional issues raised, on February 21, 2013, the trial court issued an order striking both experts’ testimony, but granted Zarate-Martinez 45 days in which to file an affidavit from a competent expert witness. Zarate-Martinez timely submitted another affidavit, this time from Dr. Nancy Hendrix, and Echemendia again moved to strike. Zarate-Martinez then filed a supplemental affidavit from Hendrix outside of the 45-day time frame, and, in her reply to the motion to strike, reasserted her constitutional challenges to OCGA 24-7-702 (c). Zarate-Martinez also asserted a new constitutional claim, specifically, that the provisions of OCGA 24-7-702 (c) (2) (A) and (B) were unconstitutionally vague. The trial court struck Hendrix's affidavits, and, without any affidavits from qualified medical experts to support her claim, the trial court dismissed Zarate-Martinez's complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed and did not reach the constitutional issues since the trial court never addressed them. The Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeals decision and that of the trial court with respect to the application of OCGA 24-7-702 (c) and remanded for the trial court to reconsider the admissibility of Hendrix's testimony. View "Zarate-Martinez v. Echemendia" on Justia Law

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This case involves the application of Georgia’s "ER statute" (OCGA 51-1-29.5), which required that plaintiffs who bring malpractice claims based on "emergency medical care" provided in a hospital emergency department must meet a higher standard and burden of proof to prevail. In this case, the plaintiffs took their infant daughter, who had fallen off a bed, to the emergency room with what the child’s mother described as a huge discolored bump on her head. Plaintiffs’ alleged the emergency room personnel committed malpractice in failing to properly evaluate the child and releasing her from the ER without diagnosing and treating her subdural hematoma and skull fracture, which led a few days later to severe brain damage. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs, holding that section 51-1-29.5 did not apply to their claim, but on appeal the Court of Appeals reversed. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals reached the right result, because the trial court misapplied 51-1-29.5 as well as the summary judgment standard of review. View "Nguyen v. Southwestern Emergency Physicians, P.C." on Justia Law