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Freeman v. LTC Healthcare of Statesboro, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Georgia

November 18, 2014

FREEMAN et al.
v.
LTC HEALTHCARE OF STATESBORO, INC. et al

Cert. applied for.

Medical malpractice. Bulloch Superior Court. Before Judge Peed.

Judgment affirmed.

Edenfield, Cox, Bruce & Classens, V. Sharon Edenfield, for appellants.

Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, Brantley C. Rowlen, Thomas E. Lavender III, for appellees.

MCFADDEN, Judge. Barnes, P. J., concurs. Dillard, J., concurs in the judgment only.

OPINION

McFadden, Judge.

Hospice patient Mary L. Freeman died shortly after arriving at Westwood Nursing Center, a long-term care facility. Her husband, Charles W. Freeman, acting individually and as administrator for her estate (collectively, " Freeman" ), brought a malpractice action against several defendants including LTC Healthcare of Statesboro, Inc. d/b/a Westwood Nursing Center (" Westwood" ), the appellee in this case. The trial court granted summary judgment to Westwood on the ground that Freeman had not pointed to

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evidence that Mrs. Freeman's death had been caused by the alleged breaches in the standard of care. In so ruling, the trial court declined to consider the expert opinion testimony of a nurse, concluding that she was not competent [329 Ga.App. 764] to opine on causation. We decline to adopt a " bright line" rule that nurses may never testify to causation in medical malpractice cases, but we nevertheless affirm the trial court's grant of summary judgment because the evidence shows that the nurse's causation opinion in this case fell outside her realm of expertise.

To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. OCGA § 9-11-56 (c); Cowart v. Widener, 287 Ga. 622, 623 (1) (a) (697 S.E.2d 779) (2010).

A defendant may do this by either presenting evidence negating an essential element of the plaintiff's claims or establishing from the record an absence of evidence to support such claims. ... Where a defendant moving for summary judgment discharges this burden, the nonmoving party cannot rest on its pleadings, but rather must point to specific evidence giving rise to a triable issue.

Cowart, 287 Ga. at 623 (1) (a) (citations and punctuation omitted). We review a grant of summary judgment de novo and construe the evidence, and all reasonable conclusions and inferences drawn from it, in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Abdel-Samed v. Dailey, 294 Ga. 758, 760 (1) (755 S.E.2d 805) (2014).

So viewed, the evidence shows that in February 2003, Mrs. Freeman underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. She experienced serious complications following the surgery including ...


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