Albany doctors win in state Supreme Court

Albany doctors win in state Supreme Court
Ralph Scoccimaro, the child's parents' attorney
Ralph Scoccimaro, the child's parents' attorney

ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - The Supreme Court of Georgia has unanimously ruled in favor of some Albany medical providers, who were sued by the parents of a baby who suffered permanent brain damage after she was treated and released from a local hospital emergency room.

The high court has upheld a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals and determined that the issue must proceed to trial and be decided by a jury.

"Either way, whether the jury decided preponderance in this case on a gross negligence or a simple negligence standard, we feel very confident," said Ralph Scoccimaro, the child's parents' attorney.      

The child's parents are seeking at least $15 million to pay for her full time care.  The suit is expected to be tried in April or May. We attempted to contact the attorney for the hospital group, but they did not return our messages.

The case hinged on whether the hospital medical staff provided the baby with "emergency medical care," which under Georgia law gives medical providers a greater degree of protection from liability.

The justices ruled that the trial court made a mistake in awarding a summary judgement to the parents of a baby that had fallen and had a significant head injury.

On July 7, 2007, 6-month old Keira Pech fell off a bed at her babysitter's home and hit her head on a suitcase. The baby's mother – Thu Carey Nguyen took the infant to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital emergency room in Albany, where at 5:50 p.m., the baby was seen by a triage paramedic.

After the paramedic noted a hematoma on the baby's head, at 6:02 p.m., she was seen and examined by Michael Heyer, a physician's assistant employed by Southwestern Emergency Physicians, P.C. After conducting a routine series of neurological and musculoskeletal exams, Heyer diagnosed a "moderate" sized scalp contusion, recorded her condition as "stable," and concluded it was not necessary to call in the attending emergency room doctor or order radiology studies.

Three days later, Keira was brought back to the hospital by ambulance after she stopped breathing while at her babysitter's home. A CT scan revealed a large "subdural hematoma," a collection of blood inside her skull, which was putting substantial pressure on her brain. She was immediately taken to surgery where her skull was opened to remove the blood and relieve the pressure.

She was transferred to the pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Medical Center of Central Georgia where the treating neurosurgeon concluded that the subdural hematoma had been developing for days or weeks. As a result of the subdural hematoma, the baby suffered permanent brain damage. According to her parents, she is now 8 years old and unable to walk or talk.

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