Ambulatory Surgery: Surgeon's Failure to Respond to Device Readings Is Medical Malpractice: Court Vacates $22M Jury Verdict for "Ordinary" Negligence

June 20, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Reversing a court of appeals ruling that upheld a $22 million jury verdict against a surgeon and an ambulatory surgery center, the Supreme Court of Georgia returned the case to the trial court for a new trial. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of a patient who suffered catastrophic brain damage resulting from oxygen deprivation during a procedure to relieve back pain, performed at the defendant ambulatory surgery center. The court of appeals erred, the high court said, by concluding that the trial court had correctly instructed the jury that the case involved ordinary negligence.

The trial court had adopted the plaintiff's argument that a jury of "laypersons" would be familiar with pulse oximeters because they can be purchased in drug stores—and thus the jury would not need expert witness testimony to understand the meaning of data provided by the pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitor used in the patient's care, or how a physician should respond to that information in the midst of a medical procedure. The high court explained that to prove medical malpractice, a plaintiff generally must present testimony from an expert witness to overcome the presumption that the provider acted with due care. Whether the negligence a plaintiff alleges is ordinary negligence or professional malpractice...

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