Law School Case Brief
Smith v. Finch - 285 Ga. 709, 681 S.E.2d 147 (2009))
In medical malpractice cases, the applicable standard of care often requires employment of a differential diagnosis methodology, whereby the physician considers all relevant potential causes of the patient's symptoms and then eliminates alternative causes based on a physical examination, clinical tests, and a thorough case history.
Appellants Tracie and Clay Smith, parents of Justin Smith, filed a medical malpractice suit against different physicians and healthcare providers due to Appellees’ failure to correctly diagnose their son with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). In its jury charge, the court instructed the jury on general concepts of professional negligence, the standard of care, foreseeability and proximate cause. Over appellants' objections, the court also gave the so-called hindsight instruction, and the jury returned a defense verdict. This was affirmed by the court of appeals.
Was a “hindsight charge” to the jury applicable when it is undisputed that Appellee physicians were incorrect in their diagnosis?
A "hindsight" charge states that medical negligence consisted of not foreseeing and guarding against that which was probable and likely to happen, not against that which was only remotely and slightly possible. As this essentially instructed jury to disregard appellants' expert testimony as to standard of care, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the verdict in favor of the physicians.
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