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Georgia Court of Appeals Reverses Summary Judgment on Causation in Case Against Nurse – Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Jasmyn Jackson

July 7, 2021

Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Jasmyn Jackson. The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment to a nurse on causation after the treating doctor testified they would not have done anything different. Plaintiff alleged the patient died of a pulmonary embolus following knee surgery. Plaintiff contended a nurse violated the standard of care by failing to appreciate the decedent’s risk of DVT, failing to report the decedent’s immobility to a physician, and failing to institute a DVT prophylaxis protocol. The treating physician testified that even if he had been called, he would not have changed his course of treatment. Plaintiff identified three expert witnesses, including a doctor and nurse on standard of care and one physician to testify on causation. The causation expert testified that it was incumbent on the nurses to relay the decedent’s condition to the treating physician and had the nurses done so, the treating physician’s treatment would have been different and the decedent’s risk of DVT could have been reduced. Defendant moved for summary judgment, alleging that Plaintiff failed to prove the outcome would have been different because the treating physician testified he would not have done anything differently. The trial court granted the motion. The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the testimony of Plaintiff’s causation expert was sufficient to send the case to a jury. In this case, the treating physician’s testimony was not enough to show conclusively that Plaintiff could not get to a jury on causation because Plaintiff’s expert opined that if the nurse provided more information to the treating physician, the treating physician would have chosen a different method of treatment. In prior decisions, the Court of Appeals has held that a treating physician’s testimony that they would not have done anything different is sufficient to uphold summary judgment. The Court of Appeals distinguished this line of cases by holding the testimony of an expert witness on causation should be considered in whether the treating physician’s actions may have been the proximate cause of the injury, despite the treating physician’s own testimony. Take-home: As a technical legal matter, an opinion dispute between the expert and the treating physician can create an issue for the jury. Orr v. SSC Atlanta Operating Company, 2021 WL 2702126 (July 1, 2021) For similar articles, or to subscribe to CSKL’s Health Law and Regulation Update Blog, please click here.