Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Ruling Overturned by Georgia Supreme Court
The ruling of a Georgia Court of Appeals decision on a medical malpractice lawsuit involving the death of a 15 year old boy, two weeks after he was treated in a hospital emergency room, has been overturned by the Supreme Court of Georgia.
The boy’s parents, Thelma and Sheldon Johnson sued the emergency room physician who treated their son, Shaquille, for medical malpractice. The issues of whether the physician acted with “gross negligence” was being contested, along with whether the case should be tried by a jury.
In a unanimous decision, the plaintiffs’ medical malpractice lawyer was able to make a case for a jury trial, which will now proceed to court.
Medical malpractice lawsuit details
On December 29, 2007, Thelma Johnson brought Shaquille into the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital emergency room eight days after the teenage boy underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a football injury, according to court records. He complained of chest pain on the left side of his body that increased when he took a deep breath or was lying down. The physician examined Shaquille and ordered a chest x-ray and an electrocardiogram (EKG).
At his deposition, the physician testified that he reviewed the triage nurse’s records, asked about past medical and family history, and was aware of the boy’s recent knee surgery. After examining the x-ray, the physician found no evidence of an enlarged heart, pneumothorax, pneumonia, or skeletal injury, according to court documents. He also found no abnormalities in the EKG.
The physician testified the EKG did not suggest a pulmonary embolism, nor did the boy suffer from shortness of breath. He said the boy had normal vital signs and perfect pulse “oximetry” briefs. He told the medical malpractice lawyer that he prescribed the drug Toradol to treat Shaquille, which resolved the pain, but would not have made an impact if the teen was suffering from a pulmonary embolism, further ruling out a blood clot in his lungs.
According to court documents, the physician diagnosed the boy with pleurisy and discharged him.
Medical malpractice lawyer works to overturn decision
On January 13, 2008, the boy complained of chest pains and difficulty breathing. He was taken to the same hospital by ambulance, where he died from a bilateral pulmonary embolism. His parents filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the emergency room doctor and Southwest Emergency Physicians, P.C. for the improper care their son received, which ultimately led to his death.
The couple’s medical malpractice attorney presented affidavits and testimony from two emergency room physicians who states that Shaquille’s symptoms and medical history showed obvious signs of pulmonary embolism and if the physician would have ordered proper tests, the conditions would have been discovered.
The trial court ruled in favor of the physician, granting him “summary judgment,” occurring when the judge determines a jury trial is unwarranted as the facts of the case are unquestionable and the law is clearly on the side of one party.
However, a recent review by the Georgia Supreme Court determined it was an error for the trial court to grant the doctor’s motion for summary judgment and the decision must be reversed. The ruling stated, “this is one of those cases in which the General Assembly has placed a higher evidentiary burden on plaintiffs such as the Johnsons, namely, that any departure from accepted standards of medical care must be shown, by clear and convincing evidence, to be gross negligence.”