Articles Tagged with medical malpractice

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Georgia law draws a sharp distinction between ordinary negligence and medical malpractice. The former does not necessarily require an expert’s opinion to prove liability, but the latter does. Specifically, the Georgia Supreme Court has said that medical malpractice victims must present evidence from at least one expert witness in order to “overcome the presumption that the [defendant] acted with due care and establish the [defendant]’s negligence.”

Southeastern Pain Specialists, PC v. Brown

Even in cases of egregious medical malpractice in which you would think common sense would tell you there was negligence, Georgia courts still demand expert testimony. To drive this point home, the Georgia Supreme Court recently threw out a $22 million verdict against an Atlanta doctor and his clinic. The justices felt the trial judge failed to properly instruct the jury on the differences between ordinary and medical negligence.

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Georgia’s mental health system has come under increasing public and regulatory scrutiny in recent years. Too many people suffering from serious mental illness do not receive adequate treatment. While that is tragic in and of itself, the system’s failures are compounded when these untreated patients injure or even kill innocent third parties.

Curles v. Psychiatric Solutions, Inc.

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently considered a mental health care facility’s potential civil liability in one such case. A woman with a long history of “psychotic breaks” was committed to a private psychiatric facility on three separate occasions. Approximately two weeks after the facility discharged her for the third time, the woman killed her grandmother and another man.

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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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Mental illness is a serious problem for many Georgia residents. Tragically, many people do not get the care they need until it is too late. In some cases, mental health care providers are negligent in failing to take immediate action to prevent a victim from harming him or herself.

Everson v. Phoebe Sumter Medical Center

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a Georgia man who died as a result of his untreated mental illness. The lawsuit specifically accused the hospital and psychiatrist who saw the victim a few days before his death with failing to properly diagnose his condition and take appropriate action.

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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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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