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Georgia Court of Appeals Remands for Determination of Inconsistency in Verdict – Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Eric Frisch

April 1, 2020

Health Law and Regulation Update Blog post by Eric Frisch.

This is the continuing saga of Evans v. Rockdale Hospital. Mrs. Evans presented to the emergency department with what was diagnosed as a brain aneurysm. She and her husband sued the hospital and its nurses for failure to diagnose and treat in a timely manner. At trial, Plaintiffs introduced evidence of $1.1 million in past medical bills, a life care plan with significant future damages, and other evidence. The defense challenged the credibility of the damages experts and argued that Mrs. Evans was contributorily negligent for failing to seek treatment earlier. The jury returned a verdict for the past medical bills and a small amount for loss of consortium, but zero dollars for future damages. Plaintiffs moved for a new trial on inconsistency of the verdict and for additur conditioned on the grant of a new trial for inadequacy of the verdict. The trial court denied the motions and the first round of appeals followed.

The Georgia Supreme Court remanded the case to the Georgia Court of Appeals for using the wrong standard to determine inadequacy of the verdict. In this current decision from the Court of Appeals, the Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the motion for new trial based on inadequacy of the verdict. The Court held that the record showed the trial court exercised its discretion, did not make a material error in fact or law, and that the award was not so inadequate as to show obvious jury bias or the like.

The Court also vacated its prior decision regarding inconsistency of the verdict, which is governed by a different legal standard than inadequacy. Because there was no indication the trial court used the different legal standard, the Court remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Take-home: many claimants are now using separate appellate counsel early in their cases. It is one thing to advocate trial level legal issues in the heat of battle, but understanding the standards of review for different rulings on appeal, such as evidentiary issues, requires a thorough understanding of the appellate process. The good news is that we at CSKL have decades of appellate experience on these issues!

The case is Evans v. Rockdale Hospital, ___ S.E.2d ____, 2020 WL 1527979 (Ga.Ct.App. March 30, 2019).

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