Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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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

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The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme Court's review centered on a question about the qualification of expert witnesses under OCGA 24-7-702 (“Rule 702”). Specifically, the issue reduced to what sort of experience was required of a practicing surgeon who was offered as an expert witness in a medical malpractice case to opine that another surgeon breached the applicable standard of medical care in the course of performing a surgical procedure. In this case, the Court of Appeals held that a surgeon was not qualified as a matter of law under Rule 702 (c)(2)(A) to give expert testimony about negligence in connection with a laparoscopic procedure to repair an umbilical hernia because he had not performed more than one laparoscopic procedure to repair an umbilical hernia in the last five years, notwithstanding that the surgeon had performed many other abdominal laparoscopic procedures during that time. The Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari to consider whether the Court of Appeals understood Rule 702 (c)(2)(A) correctly, and concluded that it did not. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. View "Dubois v. Brantley" on Justia Law

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Lee V. Phillips IV, by and through his mother Santhonia Hector, and Hector individually (collectively “Plaintiffs”), brought a medical malpractice action against certified nurse midwife (“CNM”) Marcia Harmon, Deborah Haynes, M.D., Eagles Landing OB-GYN Associates, P.C., Eagles Landing OB-GYN Associates II, LLC, and Henry Medical Center, Inc. (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants’ negligence caused Phillips to suffer oxygen deprivation shortly before birth, resulting in severe, permanent neurological injuries, including spastic quadriplegia, blindness, and an inability to speak. A jury returned a verdict for the Defendants. Plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that the trial court erred by engaging in a communication with the jury when neither the parties nor their attorneys were present, and by refusing to give their requested jury charge on the spoliation of evidence. The trial court denied the motion, and Plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give Plaintiffs' requested charge on spoliation of evidence; however, it reversed the trial court’s denial of Plaintiffs’ motion for new trial after determining that Plaintiffs were entitled to a new trial because the trial court responded to a note from the jury during the course of their deliberations without ever advising the parties or their counsel that the communication had taken place. After review, the Supreme Court found that the trial court's exercise of discretion in ruling that Defendants had no duty to preserve certain paper fetal monitor strips, and the appellate court's upholding of that ruling, appeared to rest on a legally incorrect premise that a defendant's duty to preserve evidence required actual notice of a claim or litigation. "Consequently, the judgment of the Court of Appeals in regard to the spoliation issue cannot be upheld, and to the extent that the Court of Appeals cases dealing with the issue of spoliation may be read as endorsing the erroneous analysis used in this case." The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Phillips v. Harmon" on Justia Law

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Before he committed suicide in September 2012, twenty-two-year old Christopher Landry had been under the care of appellant, psychiatrist Crit Cooksey. In August 2012, Dr. Cooksey prescribed both Seroquel and Cymbalta for Christopher, two drugs that contained "black box warnings" warning of an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in young adults and recommended that medical professionals prescribing the drugs monitor patients for worsening or emergent suicidal thoughts and behavior. Following Christopher's death, his parents, appellees Lisa and Michael Landry, began investigating a potential medical malpractice, wrongful death, and survival action against Dr. Cooksey and made multiple requests for copies of Christopher's psychiatric records. Dr. Cooksey on each occasion refused to produce the records, claiming they were protected from disclosure by Georgia's psychiatrist-patient privilege. Appellees filed a complaint seeking a permanent injunction directing Dr. Cooksey to turn over all of Christopher's psychiatric records. The trial court, without reviewing Dr. Cooksey's files, concluded that equity supported appellees' position and issued an injunction directing Dr. Cooksey to produce to appellees "all records pertaining to the medical treatment and history of Christopher Landry." Dr. Cooksey appealed the trial court's order and filed a motion for an emergency stay which was granted. Upon further review, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred to the extent it exercised its equitable powers to order the production of information protected from disclosure by Georgia law. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the order of the trial court in part and reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cooksey v. Landry" on Justia Law

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Appellee Ursula MacDowell was referred by another dentist to both Dr. Steven Gallant, a general practitioner with a specialty in prosthetics, and Mollie Ann Winston, D.D.S., an oral surgeon, for them jointly to provide professional services necessary for a full mouth prosthodontic reconstruction. The dentists maintained separate practices and engage in different professional specialties, sometimes worked together as a team to perform reconstructive dental services for appellee. Based upon a treatment plan devised by Dr. Gallant, Dr. Winston was to extract certain teeth and place implants into MacDowell's jaw which Dr. Gallant would utilize in the installation of dental prostheses. Shortly after the first of several implant procedures, in August of 2006, Dr. Gallant determined that the implants had been improperly placed in such a manner as to make the installation of prostheses difficult. In fact, he consulted with another dentist, Dr. Hal Arnold, who confirmed Dr. Gallant's opinion. Dr. Gallant admitted he did not inform MacDowell of his opinion or discuss the options for treatment with her. Instead, he exercised his own judgment that it would be best to work around the difficulties created by the implants and go forward with installing the prostheses, so as not to put the patient through the process of removing and replacing the implants, because she had been through "enough." When appellee sued for malpractice, Dr. Gallant moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment to Dr. Gallant and the professional corporation through which he practiced. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment. The issue before the Supreme Court on appeal of that reversal was whether the Court of Appeals erred when it held that the statutory period [of limitation] was tolled even after the plaintiff consulted with a second dentist. Finding no reversible error in the appellate court's decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the outcome. View "Gallant v. MacDowell" on Justia Law

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In a medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether it was wrong for the appellate court to reverse the trial court's denial of defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs in this case accused an emergency room surgeon of having negligently delayed surgery that ultimately lead to the injured person losing a finger. Upon review of the facts of the case, the Supreme Court concluded there remained questions of fact that should have been presented to the jury, and the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. As such, the Court affirmed the appellate court's decision to reverse the trial court. View "Abdel-Samed v. Dailey" on Justia Law