October 31, 2008
Caps on Damages Case Settles in Favor of Mr. Park
Atlanta, Georgia—Yesterday afternoon, the case of Park v WellStar Hospital settled for an undisclosed amount. The case was on appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court following a Fulton Superior Court ruling that Georgia’s statutory limit on damages in a medical malpractice case was unconstitutional. The defendants’ appeal was scheduled for oral argument before the Georgia Supreme Court next Monday.
“We are pleased that the Park family has received justice,” said Rob Roll, an attorney for Park. “This case truly represented the uphill battle facing Georgia’s families since SB 3 became law. While this case was closely watched, we have never lost sight of the paramount importance of the best interest of our clients. It is clear that the defendants did not want the caps provision to be scrutinized by the Georgia Supreme Court. And the Parks deserved and received justice.”
The case was filed by Plaintiff Cheon Park, 59, who fell from a ladder at his home in late 2006. He was taken to WellStar Douglas Hospital by ambulance with complaints of pain in his neck, shoulder, arm and pelvis. Once at the hospital, doctors treated Park for a dislocated shoulder and then released him that same evening. Upon his discharge, Park could not stand on his own and had to be lifted by hospital staffers and his loved ones into his car. Just a few days later Park, still in pain, was taken to Grady Hospital where X-Rays revealed he had a severely damaged spine. Park is a now a C4 quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair.
The Parks filed suit in Fulton County Superior Court against the Hospital. During that tumultuous time, the Parks learned of SB 3. In 2005, the Georgia Legislature passed a sweeping, so-called “tort reform” measure. Claims of “jack-pot-justice” and “frivolous lawsuits” flooded the halls of the Gold Dome. In one fell swoop, SB 3 drastically compromised the Constitutional Rights of all Georgians. In some aspects SB 3 attempted to limit Georgia citizens’ Constitutional Rights and in other aspects those Rights were completely eradicated.
After receiving the news that a chance for a financial recovery had been destroyed just one year before, the Park family asked the judge for a ruling on the two main components of SB 3— the application of a gross negligence standard in emergency rooms and the cap on ‘non-economic,’ or ‘quality of life,’ damages. Last May, Judge Marvin Arrington ruled that Georgia’s medical malpractice cap on non-economic damages was indeed unconstitutional. He had yet to release his decision on the gross negligence standard.
“Judge Arrington’s decision addressed several aspects of caps on damages that could not pass Constitutional muster,” said Trent Speckhals, an attorney for the Park family. “His ruling addresses this state’s—and this nation’s—fundamental value of a citizen’s right to trial by jury. His commonsense ruling balances the rights of all Georgians, young and old, rich and poor, and restores the guarantees set forth in our Constitution.”
Judge Arrington’s decision may still be used as a persuasive decision in future civil suits.
“This conversation about the unconstitutionality of SB 3 is not over. But what is most important now is that the Park family can try to piece their lives back together,” said GTLA President, Fred Orr. “Trial lawyers are an impressive bunch of people. And this latest case proves that. Our profession knows that there is nothing more important than the client you were hired to obtain justice for. The Park family may have struggled for the next several years while their case played out in court. Instead, now they can put this behind them and start rebuilding their future. I commend the attorneys who represented this deserving family.”
Rob Roll and the attorneys at Watkins, Lourie, Roll & Chance, PC, Trent Speckhals of Speckhals and Cora, Michael Terry and Frank Lowry of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, and Ned Miltenberg of the Center for Constitutional Litigation, PC were all instrumental in the representation of the Parks in this case.
The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
Protecting the Constitutional Promise of Justice for all by
Guaranteeing the Right to Trial by Jury,
Preserving an Independent Judiciary, and
Providing Access to the Courts for all Georgians