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Georgia Court of Appeals Reverses Directed Verdict – Health Law and Regulation Update Post by Eric Frisch

July 6, 2021

Health Law and Regulation Update Post by Eric Frisch.

The Georgia Court of Appeals has reversed a directed verdict for an emergency physician and his practice group. Plaintiff alleged that the physician improperly placed an intravenous line, leading to amputation. At trial, Plaintiff introduced the testimony of a critical care specialist on standard of care. The expert was not an emergency physician, but testified they had over 27 years of experience and had placed the catheter at issue during that time. On direct, the expert opined that the defendant violated the standard of care.

On cross, the expert testified that he had not placed a catheter like the one at issue in the emergency department in over 15 years. But, the expert testified that he placed such catheters in locations other than the emergency department as recently as five months before trial. The defendants moved for a directed verdict on the grounds that the expert was not qualified to testify to the standard of care in the emergency department setting. The trial court granted the motion. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that questions about the adequacy of the witness’ opinion on standard of care were for the jury. Because the expert testified as to a deviation from the standard of care, there was evidence from which the jury could infer malpractice and thus defendants were not entitled to a directed verdict.

Take-home: This is a legal decision that is based on the standard for directing a verdict. On directed verdict, the question is whether there is an absence of any evidence, not whether the evidence is strong, credible, or “good.”

The case is Lockhart v. Bloom, ___ S.E.2d ___, 2021 WL 2765848 (July 2, 2021).

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