Surviving Children Win $1.5 Million Against Georgia Department of Corrections for Mother’s Death

Surviving Children Win $1.5 Million Against Georgia Department of Corrections for Mother’s Death

Our clients, the surviving children of the victim in this case, filed a complaint against the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) and Georgia Board of Regents after it came to light that the GDC was negligent in providing medical care to their mother, resulting in her death.

Our clients’ mother was in the custody of GDC when she requested medical assistance for a number of health concerns, including chest pain, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and tingling in both hands, among other concerns. She first made medical staff aware of these concerns on September 9, 2019 and she repeated these complaints for more than a week while in the custody of GDC.

Several medical professionals employed by the Georgia Board of Regents, which employed the medical providers in Georgia prisons at the time, evaluated our client’s mother, ordered further testing for her, and prescribed her medications to treat her health concerns. Despite complaining of chest pain and even telling medical staff that she felt unable to walk because she feared passing out, our client’s mother was never referred out to an advanced level care provider (for example, a local hospital) and was instead told to request medical staff again if her condition further worsened.

After continuing to request medical care for ongoing and worsening chest pains, shortness of breath, and throat and neck pain, our patient’s mother requested an EKG. An EKG had been performed a few days earlier, but staff decided it did not indicate a concerning cardiac event. Medical staff denied her request for a second EKG and also did not document this request in the patient’s paperwork.

Our client’s mother had continued unhelpful encounters with prison medical staff over several more days. State policy requires medical staff to refer the patient to an advanced level care provider, but no referral was ever made during this time.

Sadly, on September 18, 2019, our client’s mother was found unresponsive in her cell, with no pulse. She was then transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Our clients hired The Champion Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. in an effort to get justice for how their mother was treated under GDC’s care. Attorneys Darl Champion and Eric Funt filed suit in Habersham County Superior Court. Our lawsuit included state law claims for medical malpractice under the State Tort Claims Act, as well as federal claims for the violation of the patient’s constitutional rights.

The federal claims were asserted against two state employees—a nurse and a physician’s assistant who were responsible for the patient’s medical care. The defense moved to dismiss the federal claims. The federal judge granted the motion to dismiss as to the nurse, but denied it as to the physician’s assistant. However, after discovery revealed more facts about the nurse’s involvement in our client’s medical treatment, the judge let us add the claims against the nurse back into the case.

One big challenge in this case was proving causation. Our contention was that our client should have been referred out to a hospital for a thorough cardiac evaluation. However, the autopsy performed on our client did not show any major blockages in any arteries. Had there been a blockage seen, it is something that could have easily been detected and treated in the hospital. Because there wasn’t one, the State retained two experts to give opinions that, even if our client’s mother went to the hospital, they would not have been able to determine the source of her problems and treat them, and that she would have died anyway.

Another challenge was that Georgia law imposed caps on the state law claims for medical malpractice. Under the Georgia Tort Claims Act, and cases interpreting it, the most our clients could have obtained on the state law claims was $2,000,000–$1,000,000 for the wrongful death claim and $1,000,000 for the Estate’s claim for pre-death pain and suffering. This gave the State a lot of leverage in negotiations because it was able to argue that our clients’ upside was limited if they proceeded to trial.

Despite these obstacles, Darl, Eric, and The Champion Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. team were able to build a strong case showing that the medical providers were negligent, that they violated the deceased’s constitutional rights, and that their wrongdoing caused her death. After a day-long mediation, the State agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle all of our clients’ claims.

About The Champion Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C., Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C.

If you or someone you know has experienced an injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact The Champion Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. today for a free case consultation. Our contingency fee structure means you only pay for our services if and when we win your case. To date, The Champion Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. team has secured over $100 million for our clients.