Failure to Diagnose in Georgia

In a recent case, a Georgia plaintiff brought a lawsuit against a doctor, a medical practice and a laboratory for ordinary and professional negligence. The defendants had failed to diagnose and treat the plaintiff’s wife’s cervical cancer in a timely fashion.
The parties took numerous depositions and exchanged a number of discovery requests. During the discovery period, the plaintiff filed a motion to compel further testimony from a lab employee, which denied. A partial summary judgment was granted with respect to the lab for its failure to see abnormal cells on a Pap smear test slide.
The plaintiff appealed three of the trial court’s rulings, including its refusal to compel more testimony from a witness, its exclusion of expert witness testimony and its granting of partial summary judgment for the lab on the issue of standard of care.
The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision regarding compelling more testimony. However, it vacated the decision to exclude expert testimony and grant partial summary judgment.
With regard to the motion to compel, the plaintiff had sought further testimony from the cytotech who originally reviewed the Pap smear. The cytotech reviewed a lot of slides and couldn’t remember the slide at issue in this case. When shown photomicrographs of the slide, she was asked if she saw any abnormalities.
The lab’s attorney instructed her not to answer. She testified she didn’t diagnose from photomicrographs, which bore a different appearance from the slides she did review.
The trial court denied the motion to compel because there was nothing to show the photomicrographs were similar to what the witness saw when she saw the slides and the witness had stated she now had hindsight bias, among other reasons.
The plaintiff also appealed the court’s exclusion of an expert witness: a staff pathologist who had the opinion that the cytotech’s initial review of the slide breached the standard of care. She testified she formed an opinion about breaching the standard of care from personal reviews of the slide and called this case a blatant miss.
The trial court would let her testify about certain matters, but held it couldn’t give an opinion about whether an employee breached the standard of care stating that certain blinded reviews didn’t satisfy the reliability requirements of the statute.
The appellate court found the trial judge had abused her discretion by holding the only acceptable methodology was the blinded review methodology promoted by a cytotech professional organization. The expert had testified that the blinded reviews corroborated an opinion she had developed from focused reviews. Second, the trial court should have analyzed the methodology she used to reach her opinion: focused reviews.
Because it vacated the court’s ruling that excluded the expert’s opinion on the applicable standard of care and to send the case for further consideration, the court also vacated the order granting partial summary judgment to the lab, which was based on excluding the expert’s opinion about a breach of standard of care.
If you are hurt or a loved one is killed due to a healthcare provider’s failure to diagnose a medical condition, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses. Experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney Terrence R. Bethune can evaluate your case and fight for any compensation you may deserve. Contact us at 404-875-7800 or via our online form.
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