A state court jury in Georgia has ordered a hospital and other defendants to pay $3 million to the family of a patient who died of a punctured bowel, following a botched laparoscopic abdominal surgery.
The medical malpractice claim was brought by the family of Francis Lorraine Mitchell, who died in 2016, after undergoing surgery to remove a pelvic mass. Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Inc., Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, Inc. Dr, Andrew Emmons Green, and the Northeast Georgia Health Systems, Inc. were named as defendants in the case, which went to trial following delays associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to allegations raised in the lawsuit, Dr. Green accidentally perforated Mitchell’s small intestine during the surgical procedure, but did not notice and did not repair the hole. Shortly after, Mitchell complained of abdominal pain, which she reportedly called the worst pain of her life.
She was readmitted to the hospital and underwent a CT scan which showed signs of a sepsis infection. Mitchell also left the hospital with a temperature of 99 degrees, yet nothing was done. Expert witnesses testified at trial that the CT scans were consistent with a bowel perforation, which should have been caught by medical staff.
Mitchell died on May 7, 2016 of what was later diagnosed as peritonitis due to small intestinal perforation. Her mother, and executor of her estate, Shirley Metcalf, as well as her children filed the wrongful death lawsuit. An ER doctor originally included in the case was later voluntarily dismissed before trial.
In what is believed to be the first civil jury trial held in Hall County, Georgia before an in-person jury since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, the parties began presenting evidence on March 8, under unusual circumstances. The jury was placed in the gallery, instead of the usual jury box, and all were separated from one another and wore masks. The judge was seated on one side of the courtroom, with the jury on the other, with attorneys in the middle, requiring that they trun their backs to one or the other during presentations.
On March 23, a verdict of $3 million was returned in favor of Mitchell’s family.