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Trial By Ambush Backfires

Earlier this month, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that was brought by a man who was paralyzed from the waist down after undergoing surgery that was performed by the defendant doctor. The court was tasked with determining whether the trial court was proper to exclude the testimony of one of the plaintiff’s witnesses because the plaintiff had failed to disclose the name of the witness during pre-trial discovery.

Pile of PapersUltimately, the court concluded that the trial court was within its discretion to prevent the witness from testifying, and it affirmed the jury’s defense verdict.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff began seeing the defendant doctor in 2004 for neck and back pain. In 2009, the defendant diagnosed the plaintiff with degenerative disc disease and recommended surgery. After the surgery, the plaintiff experienced complications, eventually requiring a subsequent surgery, which was also performed by the defendant. After the second surgery, the plaintiff was paralyzed from the waist down.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim against the doctor, claiming that the doctor’s failure to respond to the plaintiff’s deteriorating condition resulted in his eventual paralysis. During the pre-trial discovery process, the defendant asked the plaintiff what the factual basis for the claim was, and the plaintiff referred the defendant to several attached affidavits and his lengthy medical records.

During trial, the plaintiff called a treating nurse as a witness. The defendant objected on the basis that the name of the nurse was not contained in one of the attached affidavits, and the defendant had not been put on notice that the nurse would be a witness. The trial court found that the plaintiff had intentionally withheld the name of the nurse and prevented the nurse from testifying. The jury then returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.

The Subsequent Appeals

On the initial appeal, the case was reversed in favor of the plaintiff. The court of appeals held that, rather than prevent the testimony altogether, the lower court should have given the defendant ample time to interview the witness and properly prepare for her testimony. The defendant then appealed that court’s decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.

On the final appeal, the case was yet again reversed, this time in favor of the defendant. The Georgia Supreme Court held that, once the trial court determined that the plaintiff intentionally withheld the name of a key witness, the trial court was within its discretion to prevent the testimony of that witness. As a result, the court of appeals’ decision was reversed, and the jury verdict in favor of the defendant was reinstated.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of negligent medical care, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Georgia personal injury lawsuit. As the case discussed above illustrates, thorough compliance with all of the procedural rules is extremely important. What may seem like a strategic decision in the moment can turn out to harm your case down the road. At the McAleer Law Firm, we have extensive experience handling Georgia medical malpractice cases, and we ensure that our clients’ cases comply with all of the procedural rules, increasing the chance of a favorable result. Call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney today.

See More Posts:

Georgia Court Determines Fast-Food Restaurant Did Not Have “Superior Knowledge” of Hazardous Condition that Allegedly Caused Plaintiff’s Fall, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, June 6, 2017.

Undue Nit-picking by Georgia’s Court of Appeals?, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, May 23, 2017.