A Georgia jury has awarded $1.5 million in compensation for pain and suffering in a medical malpractice suit over an amputated thumb, which is believed to be the first jury award to exceed a recently overturned cap on non-economic damages in the state.
The case was filed by Johnnie Jackson, 47, against a Georgia hospital and several nurses after an alleged medical mistake involving an intravenous needle in his wrist, which was inserted incorrectly and allowed medications to infiltrate the surrounding tissue. The lawsuit alleged that a nurse who checked the IV hours later found that the site was painful and swollen, and removed the needle. However, nine hours allegedly passed before Jackson’s doctor checked on Jackson and found that the drugs had leaked into the rest of his hand, which ultimately resulted in several operations to save his hand. However, they were unable to save his thumb.
Only four days after a $350,000 cap on Georgia malpractice suit damages was struck down by the state supreme court, a Coffee County jury awarded Jackson $53,026 in medical expenses and $1.5 million for pain and suffering. If the cap had still been in place at the time of the award, Jackson’s recovery would have been limited to just over $400,000.
The Georgia medical malpractice damage cap was put in place by the state legislature in 2005. However, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously struck down the cap last month as being unconstitutional when it was challenged by a plaintiff who sued a plastic surgery office for disfiguring her face.
California was the first state to enact a damage cap in 1975, specifically limiting the non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuit. As of 2005, ten states had capped recoveries specifically on medical malpractice cases and another 22 had imposed caps on all injury suits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.