When there is a big jury verdict in a personal injury case, you hear about it in the news. But what you don’t hear about are the thousands of other cases where victims receive little to no compensation. A $10,000 jury verdict doesn’t have the shock appeal that the news today often seeks.
Due to this disparity in reporting, it can feel like juries in Georgia personal injury cases are out of control, regularly awarding multi-million dollar verdicts in personal injury cases. This simply isn’t true. In fact, juries sometimes award those injured in personal injury cases far less than they deserve. Rockdale Hospital v. Evans, a case that was recently decided by the Supreme Court of Georgia, is an example of such a case.
Victim Suffers Catastrophic Injuries After Hospital Discharge
In 2012, Janice Evans awoke in the middle of the night with the worst headache of her life. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea followed. Shaun Evans, her husband, initially believed she was suffering from a bad bout of food poisoning; when the symptoms didn’t subside in almost two days, he took her to the emergency room at Rockdale Hospital.
Mrs. Evans complained of a headache that she rated as an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale. During her entire stay, her systolic blood pressure was over 200. While high blood pressure and headaches can be signs of brain bleeding, no one focused on the root cause of her pain.
After being discharged, Mrs. Evans continued to suffer from nausea, vomiting, and headaches. On January 22, 2012, Mr. Evans called 911 when Mrs. Evans was unable to get up from the couch. It was eventually determined that she had a blood clot in her brain and had suffered several strokes caused by a ruptured aneurysm. She underwent multiple surgeries in subsequent months.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Evans never recovered. She is now permanently disabled and requires 24-hour care. She utilizes a feeding tube, cannot speak, and has severe cognitive and physical impairments.
Jury Awards $0 For Pain and Suffering
Mr. Evans brought suit against Rockdale Hospital for medical malpractice and loss of consortium. The Hospital defended itself by pointing the finger at the victim for not seeking care early enough and claiming that pre-existing conditions were to blame.
Following trial, the jury awarded $1.2 million for Mrs. Evans’ past medical expenses. However, the jury found that Mrs. Evans was not entitled to any compensation for future medical expenses, future lost wages, or for past or future pain and suffering. The trial court upheld the verdict.
Appellate Court’s Attempt to Do Justice is Thwarted
The jury’s decision to find the hospital liable for Mrs. Evans’ medical expenses, but award no compensation for pain and suffering, makes no sense, particularly given how catastrophic her injuries were. The Evans’ attorneys agreed and appealed the decision. The appellate court also agreed, holding that the award of $0 for pain and suffering was “clearly inadequate.”
Rockdale Hospital appealed the appellate court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Georgia. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the Court of Appeals. Relying largely on the text of Georgia Code OCGA § 51-12-12, the Court held that approving the jury verdict was not an abuse of the trial court’s discretion and should be upheld.
The fact that Mrs. Evans will receive no compensation for her pain and suffering is a miscarriage of justice, but her case underscores the importance of bringing a strong medical malpractice case at the trial level. It also serves as a reminder of the people who suffer when juries return unreasonably low verdicts. To learn more about medical malpractice cases in Georgia, you can view this video by attorney Joel Williams, founder of Williams Elleby.
If you have been injured in an accident and think someone else is at fault, the Georgia trial attorneys at Williams Elleby would like to help you understand your situation and options. Call us at 833-LEGALGA to schedule a free consultation.