Georgia Court of Appeals Holds that Question of Timely Administration of Medications is Professional Negligence – Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Ashley Hughes
Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Ashley Hughes.
The Georgia Court of Appeals has partially upheld the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to a hospital, holding that whether a pre-surgical antibiotic was timely administered, as ordered by the physician, is a question of professional negligence.
Plaintiff suffered a brain infection, resulting in permanent neurological injuries after she underwent a craniotomy to remove an arachnoid cyst. Prior to the craniotomy, the surgeon ordered that Plaintiff be given 1 gram of the antibiotic Ancef within one hour before surgery. The nurse anesthetist administered Ancef to the Plaintiff at 12:40. However, the electronic medical record indicated that the surgery started at 12:05. The circulating nurse later changed the surgery start time in electronic medical record and testified that it should have been 13:05, not 12:05. After the surgery, Plaintiff developed an infection which required additional surgeries and resulted in neurological damage. Plaintiff brought suit against the surgeon, hospital, and others, but specifically alleged claims for professional and ordinary negligence against the hospital.
The defendants filed a joint motion for summary judgment, alleging that the antibiotic was timely administered within one-hour of the procedure, as prescribed. The hospital separately alleged that there was no evidence that an employee of the hospital was negligent, as it was undisputed that the nurse anesthetist—who was responsible for administering Ancef to the Plaintiff—was not an employee of the hospital. The trial court granted the hospital’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that Plaintiff failed to provide any expert testimony that any employee of the hospital violated the standard of care.
The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the hospital on Plaintiff’s claim for ordinary negligence only. In so holding, the Court of Appeals determined that the timely administration of pre-surgical antibiotics requires professional knowledge, skill and experience. As such, Plaintiff’s claim fell “within the realm of professional medical decision making” and was one for professional negligence, not ordinary negligence.
Take-Home: The failure to perform clerical, routine, or other administrative acts, such as the activation of alarms or having the appropriate equipment, is considered ordinary negligence. But, where the action requires the evaluation of a medical condition of a particular patient, such as the timely administration of medications, the failure to do so is one of professional negligence.
The case is Giddens v. Medical Center of Central Georgia, 2020 WL 702252 (Feb. 12, 2020).
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