MCFADDEN, C.J., MCMILLIAN, P.J. and MERCIER, J.
the death of Bobby Copeland ("Bobby"), Gregory
Copeland, individually and as Bobby's son, and Marier
House, as the administrator of Bobby's estate,
(collectively, "the plaintiffs") sued Lowndes
County Health Services, LLC d/b/a Heritage Healthcare at
Holly Hill ("Holly Hill") for wrongful death and
other damages. A jury found Holly Hill liable for both
professional and ordinary negligence. It awarded the
plaintiffs over $7.6 million in damages, but allocated fault
between Holly Hill and four non-parties to the trial. Based
on the jury's allocation of fault, the trial court
entered final judgment for the plaintiffs against Holly Hill
for $1, 524, 240.
No. A19A1552, Holly Hill appeals the final judgment entered
on the jury's verdict and the denial of its motion for
new trial, arguing that the trial court erred in (1)
rejecting its challenge to the plaintiffs' use of a
peremptory jury strike, and (2) denying its motion for
directed verdict on plaintiffs' negligent staffing claim.
In their cross-appeal in Case No. A19A1553, the plaintiffs
assert that the trial court erred in (1) denying their motion
for directed verdict as to apportionment, and (2) using a
misleading and confusing special verdict form. For reasons
that follow, we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, see
Ford Motor Co. v. Gibson, 283 Ga. 398, 399 (659
S.E.2d 346) (2008), the evidence showed that Bobby lived at
Holly Hill, a skilled nursing facility in Valdosta, from 2001
until his death in 2012 at the age of 71. Around 10:45 p.m.
on October 25, 2012, Faye Jenkins, a licensed practical nurse
("LPN") employed by Holly Hill and assigned to the
11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. "night shift," entered
Bobby's room and saw brown vomit on his clothing. Noting
that Bobby's stomach was "slightly distended,"
Jenkins listened to his abdomen with her stethoscope and
detected "a lack of bowel sounds in three of four
quadrants[.]" She then called Shawn Tywon,
physician's assistant to Dr. Douglas Moss, Holly
Hill's medical director. Jenkins related her observations
and asked whether Bobby should go to the hospital for
evaluation. Tywon told her not to send Bobby to the hospital,
but he ordered a blood test, an abdominal x-ray, and nausea
medication for Bobby. Jenkins checked on Bobby throughout her
shift. She heard him moan at one point during the night and
noticed no change in his bowel sounds.
end of her shift approached on October 26, 2012, Jenkins
reported Bobby's condition to the nurse coming on duty at
7:00 a.m., as well as to Registered Nurse ("RN")
Lisa Sirmans, Holly Hill's Assistant Director of Nursing,
who arrived at the facility around 6:30 a.m. Concerned about
Bobby, Jenkins asked Sirmans "to please get something
done about this resident," and Sirmans responded that
"she would." According to Bobby's medical
chart, however, he was not actually assessed until 9:15 a.m.,
when Kaye Frazier, an RN who served as Holly Hill's
Director of Nursing, examined him. Frazier noted that
Bobby's abdomen was distended and that he was complaining
of abdominal pain.
x-ray ordered the night before by Tywon was completed at
Holly Hill just before 10:00 a.m. Tywon examined Bobby at
10:15 a.m., and approximately 45 minutes later, an ambulance
transported Bobby to South Georgia Medical Center
("SGMC"), where he was treated in the emergency
room by a team that included Dr. Matthew Shannon, Moss, and
Tywon. Bobby was transferred to the hospital's intensive
care unit around 5:30 p.m. He died later that night from
complications related to aspirating fecal material, a risk
associated with bowel obstructions.
jury found Holly Hill liable to the plaintiffs in both
professional and ordinary negligence, and it awarded the
plaintiffs over $7.5 million in compensatory damages. Jurors,
however, allocated only 20 percent of the fault to Holly
Hill. They apportioned the remainder of the fault to
non-parties Tywon (35 percent), Moss (35 percent), SGMC (5
percent), and Shannon (5 percent). The trial court entered
judgment against Holly Hill for 20 percent of the damages
awarded, and these appeals followed.
Holly Hill argues that the trial court erred in denying its
motion, brought pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476
U.S. 79 (106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69) (1986), challenging
the plaintiffs' decision to strike Juror No. 11 from the
jury pool. In Batson, the United States Supreme
Court barred the government from striking prospective jurors
from a jury panel based upon race. See id. at 84-89 (II) (A)
& (B); AIKG, LLC v. Marshall, 350 Ga.App. 413,
418 (829 S.E.2d 608) (2019). The Supreme Court later extended
this holding to civil litigants, prohibiting race-based
peremptory strikes in civil trials. See Edmonson v.
Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614, 630 (II) (B) (111
S.Ct. 2077, 114 L.Ed.2d 660) (1991); AIKG, LLC,
criminal and civil proceedings, a Batson challenge
is analyzed using a three-pronged test:
(1) the opponent of a peremptory challenge must make a prima
facie showing of racial discrimination; (2) the proponent of
the strike must then provide a race-neutral explanation for
the strike; and (3) the court must decide whether the
opponent of the strike has proven discriminatory intent.
AIKG, LLC, supra (citation omitted). On appeal, we
are mindful that the trial court's resolution of a
Batson motion "rests largely upon assessment of
the proponent's state of mind and credibility; it
therefore lies peculiarly within a trial judge's
province." Id. (citation omitted). A trial
court's determination as to whether the opponent of a
jury strike proved discriminatory intent is "entitled to
great deference and will be affirmed unless clearly
erroneous." Id. (citation omitted).
that all six of the individuals stricken by plaintiffs'
counsel were white, Holly Hill argued at trial that the
strikes "ha[d] to do with race." In response,
plaintiffs' counsel provided the reasoning ...