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Cheney v. Lawson

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

June 12, 2015

CHENEY
v.
LAWSON

Reconsideration denied July 15, 2015 -- Cert. applied for.

Medical malpractice. Ware State Court. Before Judge Gibson.

Coles Barton, Matthew S. Coles, Thomas M. Barton, Aaron P. M. Tady, for appellant.

Savage & Turner, Brent J. Savage; The McCranie Law Firm, George F. McCranie IV, for appellee.

DOYLE, Presiding Judge. Phipps, C. J., and Boggs, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 298

Doyle, Presiding Judge.

Amanda Lawson filed a medical malpractice action against Dr. David Cheney after she experienced a serious infection and complications following breast augmentation surgery performed by Cheney. [333 Ga.App. 181] The jury found in favor of Lawson, awarding her $500,000. Cheney appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by (1) admitting a summary of Lawson's medical bills; (2) denying Cheney's motion for a mistrial and failing to admonish plaintiff's counsel after counsel mentioned other claims against Cheney in violation of the trial court's ruling excluding such evidence; and (3) failing to admonish plaintiff's counsel for mentioning an apology letter from one of Lawson's treating physicians. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

Construed in favor of the verdict,[1] the evidence shows that Lawson paid $3,450 for breast augmentation surgery, which Cheney performed with the assistance of his business partner. Lawson was not given general anesthesia, but was awake and alert during the painful three- to four-hour procedure. In the days following the procedure, Lawson experienced pain, swelling, and drainage from her breasts, and one of the implants began to protrude from the point of insertion. Lawson saw another doctor, Wallace Steve Anderson, who admitted her to the hospital for infection, and she was treated by multiple other doctors, including an infectious disease specialist. Lawson was eventually diagnosed with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (" MRSA" ), and she ultimately had the implants removed.

Lawson filed suit against Cheney. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Cheney liable, awarding Lawson $500,000, and the trial court entered judgment.[2] This appeal followed.

1. Cheney contends that the trial court erred by admitting a single-page summary of Lawson's medical bills because the underlying bills were not admitted into evidence, and Lawson failed to lay the necessary foundation for their admission.

During the trial, plaintiff's counsel asked Lawson whether she could identify the medical records contained in Exhibit 4, a compound exhibit consisting of Lawson's medical bills from seven providers, " as [her] medical bills [sic] that [she] incurred as a result of --?" Counsel was interrupted by the trial court to clear up confusion regarding the exhibit numbers, and Lawson never answered the question. Cheney objected to admission of Exhibit 4, and the trial court

Page 299

reserved ruling on the objection.[3] Lawson then identified Exhibit 5, a single-page summary of her medical bills, which summary listed charges from the same seven providers, totaling $24,698.34. Lawson confirmed that [333 Ga.App. 182] the summary reflected " [her] medical bills from these same physicians and hospitals." [4] Cheney objected to the admission of Exhibit 5, arguing that there had been no testimony regarding most of the providers listed in the summary, and therefore, Lawson had failed to demonstrate that the bills ...


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