Medical Malpractice vs. Regular Negligence

January 26, 2014

Ambrose v. St. Joseph Hosp. Atlanta, — S.E.2d —, 2014 WL 169870 (Ga. App. 2014)

A surgical microscope used in a spinal surgery emitted UV light at a level that was too intense for the patient’s skin to tolerate. As a result, the patient sustained burns on his back that left him with a scar and continued pain.

Based on this complaint, Georgia’s appellate court held that the patient’s suit sounded in ordinary negligence, rather than medical malpractice, and hence it does not require an expert affidavit. The Court analogized this case to the “ordinary negligence” cases that involved a nurse’s failure to activate an alarm following a doctor’s order; hospital employees’ failure to carry out instructions; and a hospital’s failure to have appropriate equipment on the premises.

The Court clarified, however, that “if a claim of negligence goes to the propriety of a professional decision rather than to the efficacy of conduct in the carrying out of a decision previously made, the claim sounds in professional malpractice.”

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