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Georgia Tort Reform Challenged in State Supreme Court

Georgia’s Medical Malpractice Law Challenged in Supreme Court

The Georgia Supreme Court is hearing arguments relating to a key provision of the state’s tort reform laws, which requires plaintiffs in a medical malpractice action to establish that an emergency room doctor was guilty of gross negligence.

The hearings revolve around the case of Carol Gliemmo, who suffered a sudden headache on April 22nd 2007, and visited the San Francisco Hospital in Columbus. According to Gliemmo’s lawyers, the ER doctor, Mark Cousineau diagnosed her condition as resulting from stress, prescribed valium, and sent her home. This was even as the 56-year-old Gliemmo continued to scream in agony. Gliemmo suffered a stroke, and has since been left paralyzed and with significant neurological damage.

Cousineau’s lawyer defends his client’s treatment of his patient. According to ER nurses, he says, Gliemmo admitted she was feeling better at least three times before she left.According to Gliemmo’s lawyer, Georgia’s medical malpractice reform laws have helped eliminate malpractice claims against hospitals and ER doctors, giving them what he calls" an unconscionable and inequitable advantage.”

This is just the latest challenge to the state’s tort reform laws that were passed with great fanfare in 2005. Then, lawmakers supported by hospitals and insurance companies passed sweeping laws that restricted patients’ abilities to claim damages for medical malpractice. Last month, the Georgia Supreme Court also heard from another female patient who was severely disfigured after a botched plastic surgery in an Atlanta hospital. A Fulton County jury awarded the woman, Betty Nestlehutt $1.15 million in non-economic damages, against the cap that had been set at $350,000. The hospital has appealed against the verdict.

As Georgia medical malpractice lawyers, we are definitely encouraged to see more challenges being mounted against the draconian laws of 2005. More patients are coming forward to challenge these laws, and there’s reason to be optimistic that patient rights to justice will be restored once again.

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