The Importance of Correctly Identifying and Naming Defendants in a Georgia Medical Malpractice Case

When you decide to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit in Georgia, there are many steps in the process. To ensure that your claim is free of procedural errors, it is crucial that you understand what is required of you as the plaintiff when working with your lawyer to draft the first part of the lawsuit, otherwise known as the complaint. The complaint typically establishes what your claim is, and why you are entitled to relief in the courts. In some cases, however, you may not need to name each defendant specifically involved in the case to successfully bring a legal claim against them under Georgia’s procedural rules.

In a recent Supreme Court of Georgia opinion, the court considered a lower court’s opinion regarding whether a plaintiff sufficiently asserted his claim against the defendant. Following the plaintiff’s wife’s significant medical-malpractice related injuries after being treated by the defendants, the appellate and lower courts ruled in favor of the plaintiff and claimed that he had sufficiently asserted his claim of vicarious liability against the defendant even though he did not specifically name each doctor who treated his wife in his complaint. The state’s high court then considered whether the appellate court’s decision in siding with the plaintiff was correct.

Upon review, the court determined that the Court of Appeals did not err in its decision. The defendants again argued that the plaintiff did not sufficiently plead a vicarious liability claim because the plaintiff failed to specifically name the exact defendant physician in his complaint. The court disagreed, holding that because Georgia is a notice-pleading jurisdiction, the plaintiff successfully brought forward his claim for vicarious liability.

In a Georgia medical malpractice claim, the complaint sufficiently pleads a vicarious liability claim against a medical practice by simply arguing that the practice is vicariously liable for the negligence of the physicians who treated the patient and that the physicians were agent employees of the practice. Because the plaintiff was not required to name each physician-employee in the complaint, he sufficiently stated his claim.

A notice-pleading jurisdiction like Georgia differs from other jurisdictions that operate on an issue-pleading system. In Georgia, procedures are designed to advance the “liberality of pleading.” This means that plaintiffs, when filing a complaint, only need to submit a “short and plain statement of the claims showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and a demand for judgment for the relief to which the pleader deems himself entitled.” Under this rule, plaintiffs are only required to provide “fair notice” of their claim and the grounds upon which it rests.

This rule was designed to avoid technicalities, but also to require plaintiffs to simply provide a statement of a claim that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and a general indication of what is at stake in the case. Discovery, which is typically the next step in the process, can fill in the details left out of the complaint.

Have You Been Injured Due to a Georgia Healthcare Provider’s Negligence?

If you or someone you know has been recently injured or killed as a result of medical negligence, contact the Georgia wrongful death and medical malpractice attorneys at McAleer Law. Medical malpractice cases can often be extremely complex and challenging to navigate. The lawyers on our team will assist you every step of the way. To schedule a free consultation today, contact us at 404-622-5337.

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