On July 31, 2015, a Georgia jury returned a verdict in the amount of $3.5 million in favor of the widow of a 39-year-old man who died from pneumonia following neck surgery, as a result of the negligent failure of the receptionist at the neurosurgeon’s office to forward to the doctor the urgent telephone calls that the receptionist had received from the wife concerning her husband’s worsening medical condition, according to the Georgia negligence lawsuit.
The negligence lawsuit was filed against the neurosurgeon’s medical practice, alleging that its employee who was responsible for forwarding patients’ telephone messages to the appropriate physicians owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and her husband to promptly advise the husband’s neurosurgeon regarding the calls she received from the wife concerning her husband’s deteriorating medical condition. The negligence lawsuit alleged that the employee breached the duty of care owed to the plaintiff and her husband, and that the breach led to the husband’s unnecessary death.
The Underlying Facts
On March 31, 2007, the husband had undergone surgery on his neck and he was well enough to be discharged to home the following day. The night of the first day he was home, the husband began coughing. The next morning, he was still coughing and by then he had a fever. The wife called the neurosurgeon’s office and left a message with the receptionist concerning her husband’s condition, expecting a prompt return call from the neurosurgeon. She called again during the mid-afternoon because the neurosurgeon had not called her back, and she spoke with the same receptionist, who allegedly advised the wife that the neurosurgeon was in surgery and had not yet called in for his messages. The receptionist later forwarded an email to the neurosurgeon regarding the wife’s telephone calls, but the neurosurgeon never returned the wife’s calls (the neurosurgeon claimed that he had not been notified of the wife’s telephone calls to his office).
About 5 a.m. on April 3, 2007, the wife was assisting her husband into their car to rush him to the hospital but her husband collapsed to the floor and died.
The wife filed her negligence lawsuit against the neurosurgery practice in 2008 and it took seven years to get to trial, allegedly because the defendant fought the case vigorously and the underlying allegations of negligence had to be changed as additional facts from the defendant were discovered by the plaintiff’s attorneys over an extended period of time. The defense blamed the wife for not getting her husband to a hospital earlier; the wife explained that the neurosurgeon had told her following the surgery that her husband would feel worse before he started to feel better, and that she attempted to speak with the neurosurgeon by telephone in order to be advised what to do.
The Georgia negligence case is captioned Banks v. South Atlanta Neurosurgery, No. 2008CV08001-MG.
If you or a loved one were seriously injured, or worse, due to the failure of communication between a doctor or a doctor’s office and the patient, you should promptly find a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your negligence claim for you and represent you in a negligence lawsuit alleging the lack of timely and appropriate communication between a medical provider and a patient, if appropriate.
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