Doctors Worry About the Rise in Med-Mal Payouts; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

December 02, 2019

A Large Award Against a Doctor and Medical Group Is Upheld

Last month, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a multimillion-dollar judgment for a woman who became paralyzed after being hospitalized, as a story in the Daily Report explains.

On July 28, 2014, Joan Simmons, of Savannah, was treated in the emergency department of St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital for an acute infection, among other serious illnesses. An infectious disease specialist, then with SouthCoast Medical Group, was called in to manage the patient's treatment. By August 3, Simmons' condition had apparently improved to the point that she could be transferred out of the ED and admitted into the hospital. Two days later, however, she informed floor staff that she couldn't move her legs.

In her suit against the hospital, the infectious disease specialist, and SouthCoast Medical Group, Simmons claimed that she had developed a spinal infection during her stay, but no one had diagnosed and treated it, which eventually resulted in injuries that left her paralyzed and in pain.

At trial, however, the defense argued that Simmons never informed anyone, including her physician, that she was having back pain at the site of her spinal infection.

In March 2018, a jury sided with the plaintiff, awarding her $18 million in damages. Following the verdict, however, a hospital spokesman said that St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital had been dismissed from the suit prior to trial and was therefore not liable for any damages assessed against it.

SouthCoast and the infectious disease specialist plan to appeal the decision, claiming multiple trial-court errors. Among other things, the defendants charged the judge with failing to allow them sufficient time to establish precise culpability for the spinal infection that led to Simmons' paralysis. The appeals court was unpersuaded, however, concluding that, in fact, the trial-court judge had properly handled the introduction of all evidence and related questions.

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA, is an independent journalist based in Mahwah, New Jersey.

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