“I was injured by a doctor and I need to find a lawyer” or “I was injured by the hospital and I need to find a lawyer,” are now scenarios where you have the constitutional right to seek fair and full recovery for pain and suffering.
Today was a wonderful day for the citizens of Georgia. The Georgia Supreme Court abolished the $350,000 cap that the Georgia legislature placed on medical malpractice cases. The Supreme Court ruled in Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery, P.C. v. Nestlehutt, that the law, which limited the amount of money a patient injured by a doctor or hospital’s negligence could recover, was unconstitutional.
Prior to the Georgia Supreme Court ruling, it didn’t matter if the doctor had cut off the wrong arm and leg of a patient, or even killed you due to medical negligence—$350,000 was the most you could recover for your pain and suffering. While someone with minor injuries (a minor misdiagnosis for example) wasn’t severely affected by this cap, this law hurt those who were severely injured the most. The Georgia Supreme Court case ruled on today provides a good example of the devastating affect the cap had on gravely injured people.
In Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery, P.C. v. Nestlehutt, a doctor negligently performed laser resurfacing and a full facelift on a lady named Mrs. Nestlehutt’s. The doctor’s negligence caused the skin to burn off Ms. Nestlehutt’s entire face resulting in horrible, permanent disfigurement. When Ms. Nestlehutt and her husband sued the doctor, the jury returned a fair verdict to pay for Ms. Nestlehutt’s damages: her economic losses, past and future medical damages, and pain and suffering.
However, what the jury awarded for her pain and suffering did not matter because of the $350,000 cap on pain and suffering. As you can imagine, this would have been a serious injustice and grossly inadequate, when thinking about what Ms. Nestlehutt has to endure for the rest of her life. The cap would have robbed her of the money the jury rightfully awarded her for her pain and suffering.
Ms. Nestlehutt’s attorneys recognized this injustice and immediately moved to have the law on medical malpractice caps declared unconstitutional. As stated, the case went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, and today the Court issued their opinion, ruling that the caps on medical malpractice violated our guaranteed state Constitutional right to a trial by jury.
The Court reasoned that the law which capped pain and suffering damages at $350,000 violated the right to a jury trial, the Georgia Constitution, the separation of powers, and the right to equal protection for patients who had been grievously wronged by a hospital or doctor’s negligence.
Thankfully, patients such as Ms. Nestlehutt and their loved ones now have the opportunity to recovery whatever compensation the jury deems just, when they or someone they love is gravely injured or killed due to a medical professional’s negligence.
So if you or your loved one ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to say “I was injured by a doctor, I need to find a lawyer” or “I was injured by the hospital, I need to find a lawyer,” the constitutional right to seek fair and full recovery for pain and suffering has been upheld and protected by the Georgia Supreme Court.