Georgia Supreme Court Removes Caps on Damages for Medical Malpractice

Trial lawyers like those at Pope & Howard in Atlanta, Georgia, see many cases where the law unfairly limits the rights of victims of medical negligence.  However, at least one such limit has been found to violate the constitutional right of trial by jury.

Harvey P. Cole, M.D., of Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery, performed a full facelift on Ms. Betty Nestlehutt. A few weeks after the surgery, complications arose, resulting in the patient’s face becoming permanently disfigured. Ms. Nestlehutt, along with her husband, sued the medical office for malpractice.

At trial, a Fulton County jury awarded the victim a total of $1,265,000.  Dr. Cole claimed that this amount should be reduced because of a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages that had been enacted into law in 2005.

Ms. Nestlehutt and her attorneys asked the trial judge to declare that the law violated the constitutional right to trial by jury.  The judge granted this request, and Dr. Cole appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.

On March 22, 2010, the Supreme Court unanimously held that the right to trial by jury could not be limited by the Legislature through a cap on medical malpractice damages.  Therefore, the jury’s award of damages to Ms. Nestlehutt should be paid in full.

Because of this decision, victims of negligence in medical malpractice cases are entitled to have a jury of ordinary Georgia citizens determine the appropriate amount of damages after listening to the facts and being instructed on the law.

The Atlanta Medical Negligence attorneys at Pope & Howard P.C. represent injured victims of medical malpractice in the Atlanta area, and across the state of Georgia.

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