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Doctors, Lawyers Square Off on Damages Ruling

5:57 PM, Mar 23, 2010   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- She can walk reasonably well, but 62-year-old Caroline Palmer can't do a lot of the things she used to do because her arms are gone.

"The most important things like dressing and eating, right now I can't do those," Palmer said.

Palmer lost her arms following a 2007 traffic accident.  The accident broke her legs.  Her attorney says botched IVs at a hospital forced the amputation of the schoolteacher's arms from the shoulders down.

Palmer says she's now completely "dependent on other individuals."

Palmer is among the Georgians and their lawyers cheering a state Supreme Court decision overturning a law capping medical malpractice cases.  Another is Betty Nestlehutt, who won a judgment against a cosmetic surgeon after her face developed disfiguring sores.  A jury awarded Nestlehutt a $900,000 judgment, which exceeded the state-mandated cap of $350,000.  Her attorney took the case to the Supreme Court.

"What was wrong with the cap was, it arbitrarily predetermined a one size fits all cap for everybody, without regard for the facts or the evidence," said attorney Adam Malone, who represents both women.

But a general counsel for the Medical Association of Georgia, which represents doctors, says the caps necessarily kept patient costs down.

"What we're afraid you're going to see now is physicians aren't going to want to come to Georgia because of decreased liability protections," said Donald Palmisano, Jr., MAG's director of governmental relations.

Attorney groups dispute that.   Caroline Palmer's day in court is pending. 

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