Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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We often think of medical malpractice in terms of direct negligence by a physician or other health care provider, such as a surgeon making a critical mistake while performing a procedure and permanently injuring the patient as a result. Not all malpractice is about what a provider does. In many cases it is about what the provider has not done, or more precisely, what it fails to do in a timely manner.

Consider the well-documented issue of waiting times just to receive critical medical care. This is a problem that plagues both public and private healthcare providers. According to a 2016 MSNBC report, the average wait time for care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities is about 21 days. Meanwhile, a 2014 review of hospitals in the Atlanta area are found an average wait time of 24 days for family practice doctors and 14 days for all medical specialties.

McKinley v. United States

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One of the medical horror stories you often hear about is a surgeon negligently leaving an object inside of a patient. In fact, this is quite a common problem. According to a 2012 report from Johns Hopkins University, surgeons in the United States “leave an object in a patient at least 39 times a week.” And it may be months or even years before the patient learns about it.

In fact, Georgia’s medical malpractice laws expressly contemplate such scenarios. Normally, a patient has two years from the date of a medical procedure to bring a malpractice case. When a “foreign object has been left in a patient’s body,” the patient has one year from that date of discovery to bring a claim, even if it falls outside the normal two-year statute of limitations.

Nassar Cure v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

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Medical malpractice, like any personal injury claim, requires proof of two things: The defendant committed a negligent act, and that act was the “proximate cause” of the plaintiff’s injuries. Unlike other kinds of personal injury cases, such as car accidents, it is necessary to use expert testimony to establish negligence and proximate cause in medical malpractice claims. The reason for this is simple: The average person is not qualified to know the proper “standard of care” in a medical setting.

Central Georgia Women’s Health Center, LLC v. Dean

However, even a typical juror can understand when a doctor may be trying to deceive them. This may have been the case in a recent Georgia wrongful death lawsuit. A woman who tragically lost her premature baby received a medical malpractice judgment of more than $4 million against two physicians and a health clinic.

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If you are injured due to a hospital’s negligence, you would assume that you have the right to sue for damages. If the hospital is a charitable institution, however, it may not be that simple. For nearly a century, Georgia courts have recognized a special “charitable immunity” that protects such hospitals from personal injury lawsuits.

Lewis v. Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation, Inc.

The charitable immunity doctrine has a long and sordid history. It first crept up in a case decided in the 1830s by the House of Lords, which used to be the United Kingdom’s highest court. Although the Lords later repudiated their decision, American courts in the late 19th century picked up on the idea of charitable immunity and ran with it.

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Nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are responsible for patients who require ongoing medical care. When these facilities fail to follow proper protocols, the results can be fatal. Under Georgia law, any health care provider may be liable for wrongful death if there is a breach of duty that is the “proximate cause” of the patient’s demise.

Fields v. Taylor

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reinstated a wrongful death claim against a geriatrics doctor in Dublin. The lawsuit was brought by the daughter of a woman who died six years ago while under the defendant’s care at a rehabilitation center. The deceased had been admitted to the center temporarily while the daughter, her mother’s caregiver, was unavailable.

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There are stricter rules in Georgia for bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit versus other types of personal injury claims. Not surprisingly, hospitals often try to classify ordinary negligence cases as malpractice in order to make it more difficult for the plaintiff to pursue his or her claim.

Byrom v. Douglas Hospital, Inc.

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently rejected just such an attempt. The plaintiff in this case had gone to a local hospital to undergo tests for a surgical procedure. A nurse transported the plaintiff, who normally walks with a cane, by wheelchair from the exam room to the waiting room.

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Many medical malpractice cases involve a physician who prescribed the wrong type or dosage of medication, causing physical harm to the patient. Such negligence is obviously horrific and inexcusable. But the Georgia Court of Appeals recently considered a different sort of negligence case involving a physician and an incorrect prescription.

Carter v. Cornwell

The plaintiff in this case is a Georgia woman who suffers from chronic pain. She had been under the care of the defendant, her physician, for 16 years. During an office visit in 2014, the defendant issued the plaintiff a prescription for 120 pills of hydrocodone. But the defendant subsequently altered the prescription to 180 pills before the plaintiff left his office.

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Medical malpractice is treated differently than most personal injury claims in Georgia. State law requires a malpractice plaintiff to submit an affidavit from a qualified expert who can attest that there is “at least one negligent act or omission claimed to exist and the factual basis for each such claim.” Without such an affidavit, a judge must dismiss the malpractice lawsuit.

To make things even more difficult for malpractice victims, Georgia law imposes specific qualifications on the experts who must submit the affidavits. The expert must have “actual professional knowledge and experience” in the same specialty as the defendant. This experience must include either “active practice” in the specialty “for at least three of the last five years” preceding the filing of the affidavit, or alternatively, teaching in that specialty for “at least three of the last five years as an employed member of the faculty” at a properly accredited educational institution.

Zarate-Martinez v. Echemendia

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Many Georgia residents do not wish to receive extraordinary medical procedures in the event they are suffering from a terminal illness. Hospitals and health care providers are legally required to honor a patient’s wishes in this respect, especially when there is an Advance Directive making such intentions clear. If a hospital ignores such a directive, it may be liable for causing the patient unnecessary pain and suffering.

Doctors Hospital of Atlanta v. Alicea, Administratrix

The Georgia Supreme Court recently addressed the subject of when a hospital may escape liability for ignoring a terminal patient’s Advance Directive. The case is a pending lawsuit involving a 91-year-old woman who passed away in 2012. The plaintiff is the woman’s granddaughter, acting as the administratrix of her estate.

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Every year thousands of Americans are injured or even killed due to defective medical products. While most manufacturers are responsible and take care to properly test a medical device or drug before introducing it into the marketplace, there are still cases where a defective product makes it to the patient. When that defect causes harm, it can take many years of litigation before the patient receives compensation.

Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Incorporated

Recently a federal judge in Atlanta rejected a medical device manufacturer’s bid to throw out a jury verdict arising from a product liability claim. Although the judge refused to disturb most of the jury’s findings on liability and damages, he did cut its punitive damages award by nearly 90%.