$10 Million Judgment for “Rolling Stool Rolling”
In an effort to keep you informed on both Georgia liability matters, and the ever increasing jury awards in Georgia, we would like to point you to a recent case that concluded in South Georgia. A Lowndes County jury recently delivered an excessive post-apportionment award of seven million ($7,000.000.00) to a surgeon who suffered a head injury when he attempted to sit on a stool in the operating room in which he was working. According to court filings, the middle aged physician had just completed a surgery, and was sitting down on the four-legged stool to write post-operative orders when the stool shot out from under him and he fell backward to the floor. The physician, who had a very successful general practice and was a vascular specialist, had no recollection of the accident. Plaintiff’s attorney claims that his client continues to suffer from seizures, cognitive and memory problems, and migraine headaches.
The case went to trial in Lowndes County State Court on January 17, after a court-order mediation failed to resolve the dispute. The physician sued the hospital based on the claim that the stool that injured him in the emergency room, despite the fact that he had used the same or same type chair hundreds of times before in the same or a similar setting was inappropriate for the type flooring in the operating room. Basically, the plaintiff claimed that the stool at question, despite its successful use by thousands of physicians in operating rooms around the country on a daily basis, was an unreasonable danger known to the hospital. The key to the plaintiff’s argument was proving that the hard plastic casters on the stool at issue were not appropriate for the hard floor. The claim was bolstered by testimony from other South Georgia Medical Center staffers who had reported similar instances of people falling from the stools. Expert testimony at trial, which was not overly complicated, centered on basic safety standards calling for hard casters or wheels such as those on the stool to be used on carpets and soft surfaces, while softer rubber wheels are suitable for hard surfaces such as the one involved in this accident. The hospital’s reasonable defense, which unfortunately proved to be ineffective, was that “rolling stools roll”, and the physician “knew he had to be careful” because he had performed thousands of surgeries utilizing a rolling stool and was well acquainted with their use.
The plaintiff’s counsel cited lost wages in the area of four and a half million dollars ($4,500,000.00), and at closing asked the jury to award between that sum and thirteen million dollars ($13,000,000.00). The defense counsel rightfully argued against any award at all. Ultimately, the jury awarded ten million dollars ($10,000,000.00) in damages, but under Georgia’s apportionment statute, apportioned thirty percent (30%) of the liability to the physician for a final award of seven million dollars ($7,000,000.00). The jury verdict came seven years to the day after the physician’s fall.
Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the growing trend of out of control jury verdicts.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns about the above referenced matter or others.
Yours very truly,