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Georgia Verdicts

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Family blamed elderly patient's death on doctors' negligence

Amount:

$6,000,000

Type:

Verdict-Mixed

State:

Georgia

Venue:

DeKalb County

Court:

DeKalb County, State Court

Injury Type(s):

other-death; other-aspiration; other-vomiting/vomition; cardiac-cardiac arrest

Case Type:

Wrongful Death - Survival Damages; Medical Malpractice - Failure to Test, Failure to Treat, Failure to Diagnose, Negligent Treatment

Case Name:

John D. Scoggins, as Surviving Spouse and Executor of the Estate of Ann Little Chapel Scoggins, deceased v. Elizabeth C. Smith, D.O., Athens-Clarke Emergency Specialists PC, Daniel C. Moldoveanu, M.D. and Athens Regional Specialty Services, Inc., No. 15A56505E4

Date:

October 2, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

John D. Scoggins (Male), 

Ann Little Chapel Scoggins (Female, 72 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Cale H. Conley; Conley Griggs & Partin, LLP; Atlanta, GA, for John D. Scoggins, Ann Little Chapel Scoggins ■ Will Owens; Conley Griggs & Partin, LLP; Atlanta, GA, for John D. Scoggins, Ann Little Chapel Scoggins

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Hugo Cheng; M.D.; Internal Medicine; San Francisco, CA called by: Cale H. Conley, Will Owens ■ Richard Serra; M.D.; Emergency Medicine; Durham, NC called by: Cale H. Conley

Defendant(s):

Elizabeth C. Smith, 

Daniel C. Moldoveanu, 

Athens-Clarke Emergency Specialists PC, 

Athens Regional Specialty Services Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Robert P. Monyak; Peters & Monyak LLP; Atlanta, GA, for Elizabeth C. Smith, Athens-Clarke Emergency Specialists PC ■ James E. Brim III; Forrester & Brim; Gainesville, GA, for Daniel C. Moldoveanu, Athens Regional Specialty Services Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

Dag Shapshak; Emergency Medicine; Birmingham, AL called by: Robert P. Monyak ■ Vaughn Clagette; Internal Medicine; Carrollton, GA called by: James E. Brim III

Insurer(s):

MAG Mutual Insurance Co. for Smith, Athens-Clarke Emergency Specialists, Moldoveanu and Athens Regional Specialty Services Zurich North America for Moldoveanu and Athens Regional Specialty Services

Facts:

On the morning of Jan. 19, 2014, plaintiff's decedent Ann Little Chapel Scoggins, 72, was seen at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens. Scoggins was suffering from gastrointestinal distress and vomiting. She was treated over a period of roughly five hours by emergency room doctor Elizabeth Smith, M.D., who administered laxatives, an enema and nausea medication. She also sent Scoggins for an X-ray examination. Scoggins was discharged later that morning and returned home. The next day, she was seen by her primary care doctor with complaints of gastrointestinal pain with a distended stomach and breathing problems. She was then admitted to Athens Regional Medical Center, where she came under the care of Daniel Moldoveanu, M.D., an internal medicine specialist. It was determined that Scoggins likely had a partial bowel obstruction or ileus of the bowel. Scoggins was placed on an IV and underwent medical testing, including blood work and a series of X-ray examinations. She was given pain medication, as well as an oral dosage of magnesium citrate (300 milliliters) to relieve constipation. That evening, Scoggins began vomiting fecal matter and became nonresponsive. She was pronounced dead the next morning. John Scoggins, the decedent's husband, sued Smith and her practice, Athens-Clarke Emergency Specialists PC, and Moldoveanu and his practice, Athens Regional Specialty Services, Inc. He alleged that the defendants' negligence resulted in the decedent's wrongful death. Scoggins specifically alleged that Smith was negligent in failing to properly diagnose the patient's partial bowel obstruction. He alleged that Moldoveanu had been negligent in his treatment of the patient, arguing that Moldoveanu's failure to order a surgical consult or treat the bowel obstruction in a timely and more aggressive manner was a departure from the standard of care. Scoggins further argued that Moldoveanu was negligent in administering the magnesium citrate, maintaining that the patient should have been restricted from oral ingestion given her vomiting symptoms. Scoggins' emergency medicine expert testified that Smith had been negligent in failing to order multiple X-rays or a CT scan when it became clear that a bowel obstruction was a possible finding. Scoggins' expert in internal medicine testified that Moldoveanu had been negligent in his treatment choices and opined that a nasogastric tube should have been used to relieve gastrointestinal pressure. The defendants denied liability. Smith argued that she believed Scoggins was suffering from severe constipation and that her treatment had been within the standard of care. Moldoveanu argued that his conservative attempts to treat the bowel obstruction were indicated based on the patient's presentation. Smith's expert in emergency medicine testified that Smith had complied with the standard of care in her diagnosis and treatment of the patient's condition. Moldoveanu's expert in internal medicine testified that conservative treatment had been indicated and that Moldoveanu's actions did not violate the standard of care.

Injury:

Scoggins' cause of death was determined to be cardiac arrest secondary to aspiration from excessive vomiting. Scoggins' surviving husband sought wrongful death damages on behalf of himself and Scoggins' two adult children. Scoggins' estate sought damages that included conscious pain and suffering, outstanding medical expenses and funeral expenses. Damages were not actively disputed.

Result:

The jury found that Moldoveanu and Athens Regional were 100 percent liable for the death of Ann Little Chapel Scoggins and awarded $6 million in damages. The jury found no negligence on the part of Smith and Athens-Clarke Emergency Specialists and a defense verdict was entered for them.

Ann Little Chapel Scoggins: $5,500,000 Wrongful Death: wrongful death; John D. Scoggins: $500,000 Wrongful Death: Survival

Trial Information:

Judge:

Johnny N. Panos

Trial Length:

6  days

Trial Deliberations:

100  minutes

Jury Vote:

unanimous

Post Trial:

Counsel for Moldoveanu made an oral motion to transfer the case to a new venue under Georgia statute O.C.G.A. ยง 9-10-31(d). The statute states that if all of the resident defendants in the county where a multi-defendant case is pending are dismissed from the case before or upon a verdict, "a nonresident defendant may require that the case be transferred to a county and court in which venue would otherwise be proper." Counsel for Scoggins has moved to oppose this motion.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.