Georgia Supreme Court Affirmed 'Gross Negligence' Standard.
CASE ON POINT: Gliemmo v. Cousineau, SO9A1807 (3/15/2010) So.2d -GA
ISSUE: Is it constitutional to require a finding of gross negligence before certain nurses and physicians can be held liable for their errors?
CASE FACTS: Carol and Robert Gliemmo brought a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Mark Cousineau, Emergency Medical Specialists of Columbus, PC., and St. Francis Hospital, Inc., (Appellees). After the Appellees answered the Appellants' complaint, Appellants filed a challenge to the constitutionality of the Georgia Law which provides: In an action involving a health care liability claim arising out of the provision of emergency medical care in a hospital emergency department or obstetrical unit or in a surgical suite immediately following the evaluation or treatment of a patient in a hospital emergency department, no physician or health care provider shall beheld liable unless it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the physician or health care provider's actions showed gross negligence. The trial court rejected the constitutional challenge, but issued a certificate of immediate review. The Appellants applied for an interlocutory review, and the Supreme court of Georgia granted the application to consider the constitutionality of the statute in question. The Appellants filed a timely notice of appeal. The Appellants contended that the law in question was a special law that violated the uniformity clause of the Georgia Constitution because it set forth a gross negligence standard of liability only for certain emergency care providers. The uniformity clause provides: Laws of a general nature shall have uniform operation throughout this state and no local or special law shall be enacted in any case for which provision has been made by an existing general law, except that the General Assembly may by general law authorize local governments by local ordinance or resolution to exercise police powers which do not conflict with general laws. Thus, the Appellants contended that: "[T]o violate [this] constitutional provision, the statute in question must either be a general law which lacks uniform operation throughout the state or a special law for which provision has been made by existing general law." Several Georgia cases were cited. Among them was Terrell County v. Albany Hosp. Auth., 256 Ga. 627, 630 (6) (352 S.E.2d 378) (1987), in which the court stated in pertinent...