Georgia Supreme Court to consider key med-mal case

The Georgia Supreme Court has agreed to consider an important medical malpractice case, Atlanta Women’s Specialists, LLC v. Trabue, that resulted in a jury award of nearly $46 million in damages – keeping in mind that the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) filed an amicus brief in the case in July.

The lawyers for the plaintiff, who is the husband of the patient, Shannon Trabue, maintained that two obstetricians, Stanley R. Angus, M.D., and Rebecca V. Simonsen, M.D., with Atlanta Women’s Specialists (AWS), failed to properly monitor and treat Ms. Trabue’s elevated blood pressure following a cesarean section delivery and caused her to have a pulmonary edema by putting too many fluids into her system. They said that three days after the C section, Ms. Trabue was having a shortness of breath and had a heart attack during the administration of an x-ray that was subsequently ordered.

The defense alleges that the heart attack was likely caused by a pulmonary embolism. They say that despite being revived, Ms. Trabue went 10 to 12 minutes without oxygen – causing permanent brain damage.

In the original case, the plaintiff made specific claims against Dr. Angus and AWS – but not Dr. Simonsen. The claims against Dr. Simonsen were not asserted until the pretrial order, after the statute of limitations had expired. (When statutes of limitations and statutes of repose are ignored, defendants are forced to defend themselves as “ill-prepared” and evidence may be “spoiled” – which means that it disappears or is no longer useful for whatever reason.)

To prove “vicarious liability,” a plaintiff must sufficiently plead that an employer is negligent for the actions of its employee/s. But since the plaintiff did not make claims against Dr. Simonsen in the initial complaint, there were no formal allegations of professional negligence against her in this case (i.e., AWS should not therefore be held liable for her actions).

In its brief, MAG asserted that 1) the medical malpractice statute of repose provides absolute finality to the assertion of medical malpractice claims and 2) the policy behind the medical malpractice statute of repose prevents the Trabue plaintiffs from asserting a vicarious liability claim against AWS based on the conduct of Dr. Simonsen.

MAG members can contact Bethany Sherrer at bsherrer@mag.org with questions about this case.

Amicus brief

Georgia Supreme Court order