In December 2007, Shaquille had arthroscopic knee surgery for a football injury. Eight days later, his mother, Thelma Johnson, took him to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, complaining of pain on the left side of his chest. Dr. Price Paul Omondi examined him, diagnosed him with pleurisy, prescribed him Naprosyn as a painkiller and sent him home. About two weeks later, Shaquille again complained of pain in his chest and he had trouble breathing. He was taken by ambulance to Phoebe Putney, where he died of a bilateral pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lungs.
The Johnson’s sued Dr. Omondi and Southwest Emergency Physicians, PC, for medical malpractice. The trial court granted summary judgment for Dr. Omondi and his employers, using Georgia’s emergency medical care statute, which says that in an emergency setting, a doctor or health care provider won’t be held liable unless they acted with “gross negligence. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision.
The Supreme Court, however, took a different approach in a unanimous decision in Johnson v. Omondi. The Court stated that the trial court’s granting of summary judgment for Dr. Omondi was an error. The Court, in previous cases, defined gross negligence as, “the absence of even slight diligence, and slight diligence is defined €¦ as that degree of care which every man of common sense, however inattentive he may be, exercises under the same or similar circumstances. In other words, gross negligence has been defined as equivalent to the failure to exercise even a slight degree of care or lack of the diligence that even careless men are accustomed to exercise.Dr. Omondi testified at trial that he recognized the potential for a pulmonary embolism. The Supreme Court concluded that, “a reasonable jury could find, by clear and convincing evidence, that in addressing Shaquille’s symptoms, Dr. Omondi acted with gross negligence, i.e., that he lacked €˜the diligence that even careless men are accustomed to exercise’.
It has been a long process for the Johnson family to seek justice for their son’s death. And this decision just means that a new trial will start and a jury will reach a verdict, so there are still more legal proceedings to come. But this is a win for the Johnsons and could impact other medical malpractice cases in Georgia arising from emergency room care.
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If a you or a family member has been harmed due to medical malpractice, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Van Sant Law, LLC may be able to help get the compensation needed and deserved. To discuss your case, contact the Van Sant Law, LLC as soon as possible at 404-991-5950, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.