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Long Arm of the Law Does Not Reach Far Enough For Man Who Lost Use of Arm After Cancer Surgery

In a recent case, a husband and wife brought a Georgia medical malpractice claim, alleging that the man’s doctors and nurses failed to correctly position and reposition him before and during surgery, causing a permanent injury to his arm. However, a Georgia appellate court recently decided that the plaintiffs failed to show that the defendants’ actions or inactions caused the man’s injury.

SurgeonThe plaintiff underwent a robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy surgery, an operation for prostate cancer. The man had to be positioned with his arms tucked to his side, and his body was wrapped with sheets and towel clips. The surgery lasted over nine hours, and his body was never repositioned. After the surgery, the man complained of pain in his shoulders and arms. He underwent a second surgery on the next day to relieve pressure in his right arm, but he lost the complete use of his right arm and hand.

The plaintiffs presented a medical expert, who testified that he was not certain what led to the man’s injury, and it could have been the way he was positioned, the length of the surgery, or both. He also could not say at which point during the surgery the injury developed. He said that they believed the way he was positioned or the failure to reposition him, or a combination of these actions, caused the injury.

Proof of Causation in Medical Malpractice Claims

As in any negligence claim, a medical malpractice claim requires proof of duty, breach, causation, and damages. Generally, medical malpractice claims require an expert to testify as to what caused the injury, since linking a doctor’s actions to certain injuries often requires specialized medical knowledge. An expert who testifies on causation is required to provide some basis for the confidence of the conclusion and the probability that the conclusion is accurate. Under Georgia law, an expert can meet this requirement by stating that the only apparent cause of the plaintiff’s injury was the defendant’s action. An expert can also meet this requirement by presenting overwhelming testimony that in the absence of the alleged negligence, the patient’s condition could have been prevented from worsening.

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the court found that the expert did not say with any degree of medical certainty that the initial positioning caused the injury. He only stated that the initial positioning in some likelihood contributed to the injury. The court explained that expert testimony alleging that a defendant’s actions “may have contributed” to the injury is insufficient to show causation—a mere possibility is not enough.  The magic words are “probably” or, better yet, “more likely than not”.  Anything is possible.  However, a plaintiff in a civil action must put forth evidence that a defendant is, more likely than not, the cause of his injury.  This burden of proof is called a preponderance of the evidence and “possibly” does not meet this standard.

Contact an Atlanta Medical Malpractice Attorney You Can Trust

If you or a loved one has been injured by a doctor or another medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation. At McAleer Law, we have a team of dedicated personal injury attorneys who routinely handle medical malpractice claims, and we are dedicated to providing our clients with passionate and zealous representation to pursue the results they deserve. Contact McAleer Law today for a free consultation with one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers at 404-622-5337 or through our online form.

See More Posts:

Anyone Can be the Victim of Negligent Conduct — Jury Awards Doctor $7 Million after Slip-and-Fall Accident in Operating Room, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, March 2, 2017.

Plaintiff Receives $21 Million After Wife Suffers Catastrophic Brain Damage During Back Procedure, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, February 10, 2017.