Earlier this month, after three days of trial and two-and-a-half hours of jury deliberations, a Fulton County, Georgia medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of a neurosurgeon who had been sued for allegedly contributing to his patient’s death shortly after spine surgery. The patient had died in 2004 following the successful two-level cervical surgery to address disc herniations. The 53-year-old man experienced swelling of his neck shortly after the surgery, for which the defendant neurosurgeon ordered an ice pack to be applied to his neck.
The man was transferred to the intensive care unit, where his neck continued to swell. Within four hours after the completion of the surgery, the man’s neck was noted by the ICU nurses to have swollen by one centimeter within a 30-minute period. The defendant neurosurgeon ordered an anti-nausea medication after which the patient was noted to be resting comfortably. Several hours later, the man complained of neck pain and nausea. He was given anti-inflammatory medication. Fifteen minutes later, the man called for the nurse, who observed that the man was short of breath and was in distress. The man suffered respiratory arrest despite having been placed on oxygen and he could not be resuscitated.
The neurosurgeon, his medical practice, and the hospital where the surgery took place were sued for medical negligence in 2006. The medical malpractice claims against the hospital were settled for a confidential sum in 2007 but the neurosurgeon and his employer refused to settle despite the plaintiff’s offer to settle for the $1 million medical malpractice insurance policy issued to the defendant neurosurgeon.
The plaintiff’s lawyer told the jury during his opening statement that the hospital had been a defendant in the medical malpractice case and that the claims against the hospital had been resolved. The defense told the jury that there had been medical malpractice that led to the patient’s death, and that the man’s death could have been prevented had proper medical care been provided, but the defendant neurosurgeon, who had not been contacted by the hospital staff for more than five hours before the man’s death, was not responsible for his patient’s death.
What the Georgia medical malpractice jury deciding the case against the defendant neurosurgeon was not permitted to hear was that the neurosurgeon had been sued for medical malpractice in eight other cases in Georgia and Nebraska both before and after the man’s death, and that the defendant neurosurgeon’s hospital privileges had been suspended less than two years after the man had died.
If you or a family member suffered injury or other substantial harm as a result of medical negligence in Georgia or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a Georgia medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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