On September 28, 2018, the Court of Appeals of Georgia Fourth Division (“Georgia Appellate Court”) affirmed a $4.5 million Georgia medical malpractice jury verdict, finding that the defendants failed to provide the plaintiff with proper medical treatment while he was in the emergency department of the defendant hospital, which resulted in the plaintiff suffering irreversible paraplegia.
In a previous appeal involving the same Georgia medical malpractice case, the Georgia Appellate Court determined that the treatment provided to the plaintiff by the defendants constituted emergency medical care and, thus, the gross-negligence standard outlined in OCGA § 51-1-29.5 applied.
OCGA § 51-1-29.5
OCGA § 51-1-29.5 (c) provides: “In an action involving a health care liability claim arising out of the provision of emergency medical care in a hospital emergency department or obstetrical unit or in a surgical suite immediately following the evaluation or treatment of a patient in a hospital emergency department, no physician or health care provider shall be held liable unless it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the physician or health care provider’s actions showed gross negligence.”
Gross negligence is defined as the absence of even slight diligence, and slight diligence is defined in OCGA § 51-1-4 as that degree of care which every man of common sense, however inattentive he may be, exercises under the same or similar circumstances. In other words, gross negligence has been defined as equivalent to the failure to exercise even a slight degree of care, or lack of the diligence that even careless men are accustomed to exercise.
Thus, a showing of gross negligence necessarily equates to showing a breach of a duty of even slight care. Accordingly, under the plain language of OCGA § 51-1-29.5, an emergency medical provider’s legal duty to a patient has been effectively modified to that of only slight care.
In the case it was deciding, the Georgia Appellate Court held that the trial court did not err in instructing the jury that the gross-negligence standard of care applicable to determining whether the defendant emergency room physician was at fault as a defendant also applied with regard to apportioning fault to non-parties under OCGA § 51-12-33 (c).
At the conclusion of the nearly week-long Georgia medical malpractice trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $4.5 million and apportioned its verdict a follows: 34 percent of the fault to the defendant emergency room physician, 33 percent to a non-party nurse, 33 percent to a non-party radiologist, and zero percent to another non-party nurse. The Georgia Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment affirming the jury verdict and award of damages in favor of the plaintiff.
Source Southwestern Emergency Physicians, P.C. v. Quinney, A18A0871.
If you or a loved one may have been injured as a result of emergency room negligence in Georgia or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a Georgia medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your emergency medicine medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a emergency room medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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