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Did A Surprise Witness Just Revive A Georgia Malpractice Lawsuit?

On Behalf of | May 11, 2016 | Appeals, Georgia Supreme Court |

The trial had dragged on far longer than anyone had anticipated, and it seemed that the case was finally winding down. The doctor at the center of the case had just finished denying the validity of an electronic medical record discrepancy when the plaintiff called a surprise witness. However, that witness would never take the stand, and the subsequent verdict would take one paraplegic all the way to the Court of Appeals of Georgia.

In December 2009, a patient who had undergone back surgery was rushed to the emergency room after complications arose. He was put on a regimen of antibiotics and underwent several surgeries, but he was soon recovering from the complication. However, on December 21st of that year, the patient’s condition took a turn. He lost the ability to move his legs, and after a day of tests and waiting, his surgeon discovered the problem and treated him, but it was too late.

After losing his ability to walk, the patient did some research and discovered that the doctor had more than enough time to act and save his ability to walk, so the man took his surgeon to court. After a long malpractice lawsuit, a jury ruled in the favor of the doctor, but there was one problem. The judge had excluded the testimony of a surprise witness, and Georgia law says that exclusion is not an acceptable response to potentially important evidence that has not been included in the discovery phase of a trial.

Was The Witness’ Testimony Important?

The witness’ testimony would have confirmed electronic medical records that proved the doctor had learned about his patient’s condition that morning instead of around midday. This means that the doctor could have responded to his patient’s condition sooner and prevented the man from losing his ability to walk. Such testimony could have swayed the jury to rule against the doctor, which meant that the jury’s verdict was made without evaluating the all the evidence. The plaintiff claims that this justifies a retrial, and the Court of Appeals agreed.

The Court of Appeals of Georgia has overturned the jury’s ruling in this trial and sent the case back to court. The defense has already filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Georgia, but for now it appears that a new trial is in store for this paraplegic. Will a new trial swing in his favor?

Keep following our Georgia medical malpractice blog to find out!