Most people know that when they are injured as the result of someone else’s negligence, Georgia law allows them to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party to recover. When people picture this process, they likely picture lawyers in a courtroom, having heated arguments in front of a judge and a jury. While some cases reach this stage, what many people do not know or fully understand is how important the initial stage is — the pleadings stage.
A pleading is a formal written statement of a party’s claims against the other party. The first pleading in a lawsuit is called a complaint — this is the very first document that the plaintiff files in court. While this document is the very beginning of what is often a long process , it may also be the most important. If mistakes are made in the initial pleading, the entire suit could be dismissed altogether.
A recent Georgia appellate case highlights the importance of a pleading. According to the court’s written opinion, the victim in the case was receiving dialysis on a weekly basis. In the summer of 2014, he began to bleed from the area where he received the treatment, and was admitted to the hospital. Unfortunately, he died three days later.
The plaintiffs in the case — the victim’s estate and children — sued several of the victim’s medical providers for wrongful death, alleging negligence in their treatment. The victim’s widow initially decided not to be involved in this lawsuit. Because the widow was absent, the defendant doctors and nurses filed a motion for summary judgment on the wrongful death claim, because under Georgia law the claim could not proceed without her as a plaintiff. The plaintiffs then amended their suit to include her as a plaintiff, and the widow attempted to also intervene herself, but the trial court rejected these efforts and granted summary judgment. According to the trial court, it was too late to add the widow to the suit.
The plaintiffs appealed, and the appellate court reversed. The appellate court noted that Georgia law generally grants a spouse exclusive standing to bring a claim for the wrongful death of the victim. Because she was not a part of the initial proceedings, there was a genuine issue as to whether or not the children and estate could bring the case. However, when the plaintiffs amended their complaint to resolve this issue, the trial court abused their discretion by denying that motion. Although they amended the complaint past the statute of limitations, their factual allegations were the same and they were basically filing the same suit, just with a new plaintiff. Because of this, the court held, summary judgment should have never been granted to the defendants.
Have You Been Injured as the Result of Negligent Medical Care?
If you or someone you love has recently been injured due to negligent medical care you received, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact the dedicated personal injury attorneys at McAleer Law for assistance navigating this complicated area of law. With years of experience, our Atlanta based attorneys have represented countless Georgia medical malpractice victims successfully, earning them the compensation they need to heal and move on. To learn more, call us today at 404-622-5337 to schedule your free initial consultation.