MAG & AMA file amicus brief with Georgia Supreme Court     

The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) joined an amicus brief that was recently filed by the American Medical Association with the Supreme Court of Georgia in the case of Shawn G. Evans, et al. v. Rockdale Hospital, LLC.

“The question here is whether a damages-only trial is sufficient when liability and damages are inextricably intertwined,” says MAG General Counsel Bethany Sherrer.

In this case…

  1. The patient presented to the ER after more than 40 hours of experiencing a headache and episodes of vomiting and diarrhea.
  2. The patient was discharged with instructions for follow-up care, but her symptoms worsened.
  3. The patient was rushed to the ER and diagnosed with an intracranial hemorrhage and significant brain damage six days after her discharge.

“The jury placed the hospital’s fault at 51 percent, while it placed the patient’s fault at 49 percent,” Sherrer explains. “The jury then apportioned the damages accordingly, which means the hospital was ordered to pay 51 percent of the damages for the patient’s past medical expenses ($1.2 million total) and loss of consortium ($67,000 total) – and keeping in mind that the jury did not award any damages for future medical expenses or lost wages or pain and suffering.”

The patient appealed the verdict to request a “damages-only” retrial.

Sherrer believes that, “Since the jury placed the hospital’s fault at a level that was just negligibly more than the patient’s, it likely reduced the hospital’s net damages in what is known as a ‘compromise verdict’ – which means that some jurors did not view the hospital as being liable but nonetheless voted to hold the hospital liable in exchange for a lower amount of net damages.”

She also points out, “If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, the jury in the damages-only retrial wouldn’t be able to make an fully informed decision because they wouldn’t know about or be able to consider the jury’s liability findings in the first trial (i.e., they would only be able to consider one part of the compromise) – so a defendant could be subject to far more liability than is just.”

The amicus brief maintains that…

– Allowing a second jury to award damages for conduct the first jury did not find violates the defendant’s right to a jury trial and due process protections.

– Damages-only retrials can irreparably prejudice how jurors view physicians and hospitals in medical liability cases, particularly when there is an indication of a jury compromise.

– Allowing a separate jury to hear a damages-only trial leads to excessive damages and injustice.

“The bottom line is that AMA and MAG believe the court should deny the plaintiffs’ request for a damages-only retrial and it should support the trial court’s finding on liability.”

Click for amicus brief