How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against a Hospital Works

Accidental death in the family frequently constitutes an emotional and financial emergency for the surviving members. This results in a significant need for quality advice from a skillful and compassionate attorney regarding what to do next. When choosing legal representation, the family should understand that wrongful death cases are not the same as those involving personal injuries that are not fatal.

Wrongful death is very specific and is controlled by certain Georgia statutes, many of which differ considerably from personal injury law. Due to procedural and legal complexities, surviving family members should only entrust their case to a lawyer who specializes in wrongful death claims.

"Wrongful death" is the term for the unnatural or untimely death of an individual that is caused by careless, negligent, unlawful, or criminal behavior of another person. Only certain family members of the decedent can file a wrongful death suit. Wrongful death at a hospital can be the result of malpractice, malfunctioning devices, and reactions to medication. This resource can help those navigating the complex procedures of civil litigation to find justice.

Although it doesn't have anything to do with criminal law, a "wrongful death" could be due to activities that are prohibited and could, therefore, constitute a crime. Civil wrongful death suits could be filed in circumstances where no criminal charges are filed or the defendant has been deemed criminally "not guilty". In fact, the defendant's acquittal of charges would not have any bearing in the wrongful death situation. Where the suspect escapes accountability a wrongful death claim is a grieving family's last chance for retribution.

Take, for example, the wrongful death lawsuits filed against South Fulton Medical Center. Over a two-month period, three babies died right before or right after they were delivered due to negligent medical care.

The suits claim that doctors and medical staff failed in the following actions:

  • delayed a cesarean delivery without reason

  • failed to recognize the symptoms of early labor

  • failed to recognize fetal distress in an infant
The infant in the third case was born without brain activity and died within days.

The first suit was brought by 30-year-old Angel Milan of Decatur. She was admitted when she was 37 weeks pregnant and noticed decreased fetal movements. A heartbeat was detected by a fetal monitor and the doctor scheduled cesarean delivery for that afternoon. For some reason, the delivery rescheduled for the next morning. The baby was pronounced dead shortly after delivery.

The second wrongful death suit involves 22-year-old Shan Davis of Union City. She was admitted to the hospital with complaints of back and lower stomach pains, decreased fetal movements, and a high fever. Rather than administering tests to determine whether she was in preterm labor, she was given acetaminophen and sent home. When her pain became intolerable, she returned to the hospital where she delivered a 1-pound and 15-ounce infant who was pronounced dead shortly after.

The third is a lawsuit filed by 18-year-old Quachasity Houston of Atlanta. Her suit states physicians neglected to diagnose until it was far too late that Houston needed a cesarean section. Her baby was born without brain activity and passed four days later.

An Atlanta attorney claimed, "Their stories are heartbreaking. With proper care, these babies would have lived. They'd be with their families now." A lawsuit was filed against the 338-bed community hospital, as well as OB/GYN practices, numerous doctors, midwives, and other medical facility employees. The wrongful death suits seek unspecified damages for suffering and pain, as well as loss of their babies' future earnings, and punitive damages.
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