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HOSPITAL AUTHORITY OF HALL COUNTY AND CITY OF GAINESVILLE v. ADAMS.
40740.
Action for damages. Hall City Court. Before Judge Blackshear.
PANNELL, Judge.
1. There being sufficient evidence to authorize a verdict for the plaintiff based upon the negligence of the defendant hospital the trial court did not err in overruling the motion of the defendant for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
2. The charge that "if the jury finds that Garland Adams met his death as alleged, but that the same was due not to negligence of the defendant but of Garland Adams himself, or if due to the negligence of the defendant, the same could have been discovered by Garland Adams and injury prevented by the exercise of ordinary care for his own safety, the plaintiff would not be entitled to recover," is not subject to the criticisms that it eliminated from the jury's consideration the theory of accident and the defendant hospital's contention that the injury was due to negligence of another, the physician, nor is it subject to the criticisms that it conflicted with the charges given on accident and relating to the alleged negligence of the physician. A charge is not erroneous because it fails to embrace instructions upon another theory of the case. Crawford v. Noles, 90 Ga. App. 315 (2) (83 SE2d 39); Currie v. State, 153 Ga. 178 (1) (111 SE 727).
3. The court charged the jury, "when a complaining party seeks to recover damages for the alleged negligence of an opposite party, the complaining party must prove to your satisfaction under the rules given you in charge that the alleged injury and damage was proximately caused by one or more of the acts of negligence charged against the opposite party in the complaining party's pleading." Error is assigned on this charge on the ground that it submitted issues of negligence to the jury upon which there was no evidence and on allegations of negligence which did not constitute a legal basis for recovery. "The charge complained of stated an abstractly correct principle of law which was applicable to this case. Southern R. Co. v. Bullock, 42 Ga. App. 495, 498 (3) (156 SE 456); Chandler v. Pollard, 64 Ga. App. 122, 125 (1) (12 SE2d 190); Butler v. Kane, 96 Ga. App. 521, 523 (1) (100 SE2d 598). It was not a charge submitting issues to the jury but merely told the jury what minimum facts with respect to the defendant's negligence the plaintiff would have to prove in order to recover." Williams v. Vinson, 104 Ga. App. 886, 891 (2) (123 SE2d 281); Cowart v. Gunn, 90 Ga. App. 680, 682 (2) (83 SE2d 832). Those cases holding that such a charge is error where one or more grounds of negligence alleged do not constitute a legal basis for recovery are cases where demurrers have been sustained to allegations of negligence in the petition, Executive Comm. of Baptist Convention v. Ferguson, 213 Ga. 441, 99 SE2d 150) or where, as in the case on review, it is held that demurrers interposed to one or more of the allegations of neggence should have been sustained, Central of Ga. R. Co. v. Keating, 177 Ga. 345 (4b) (170 SE 493). It does not appear in the present case that demurrers were interposed to any of the allegations Of negligence contained in the petition, and the above cases do not apply.
4. The charge "that in order for a party to be held liable for negligence, it is not necessary that he should have been able to anticipate the particular consequences which ensued. It is sufficient if in ordinary prudence he might have foreseen some injury would result from his act or omission and that consequences of a generally injurious nature might result," is in accordance with the decisions of His court stating such principle and is not error. Mitchell v. Schofield's Sons Co., 16 Ga. App. 686, 690 (85 SE 978); Ethridge v. Nicholson, 80 Ga. App. 693, 695 (57 SE2d 231); Medlock v. Barfield, 90 Ga. App. 759, 761 (84 SE2d 113); Emory University v. Lee, 97 Ga. App. 680, 691 (104 SE2d 234). While the word "might" may carry with it connotations of mere possibility rather than probability when a part of pleadings and construed most strongly against the pleader on demurrer and while the rule might be better stated by using the words "might and ought" or "could and should" (see Wright v. Southern R. Co., 62 Ga. App. 316, 320, 7 SE2d 793; Norris v. Macon Terminal Co., 58 Ga. App. 313, 317, 198 SE 272), we do not think that the charge as given misled the jury into believing that possibilities rather than probabilities governed the application of this charge to the facts of the case.
5. The amount of the verdict in favor of the plaintiff, while a full one, was authorized by the evidence and was not so excessive as to justify the inference of gross mistake or undue bias.
Mrs. Vera Adams, as plaintiff, brought an action against the Hospital Authority of Hall County and the City of Gainesville seeking to recover the full value of the life of her husband, Garland Adams, who died as a result of injuries received while a patient in the defendant hospital. Upon the trial of the case, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $115,000. The defendant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a motion for new trial on the general grounds and four special grounds. All of the special grounds were exceptions to charges of the court except one in which it was contended that the verdict was excessive and was the result of prejudice, bias, or gross mistake. Only Headnotes 1 and 5 require elaboration.
Upon the trial of the case, the evidence showed that the plaintiff's husband entered the defendant hospital on September 26, 1962, for examination and treatment, and that while a patient he received a retrograde pyelogram (an examination of the kidneys without an incision by the insertion of an illuminating device in the tube that drains the bladder). He was administered various drugs, prior to this examination and afterward, including sodium pentothal, demerol and atropine. While he was still in an apparently sleepy, tired and dazed condition, and still under the influence of said drugs, although able to intelligently respond to questions and in control of his mental faculties, he was carried on a stretcher to the X-ray room in the defendant hospital upon instructions from his physician. He was able to move from his bed to the stretcher to be carried to the X-ray room by inching very slowly on his side and was able to move from the stretcher to the X-ray table in the same manner. There were two technicians in the X-ray room, and they testified that he followed instructions for the taking of the pictures, and that after the pictures were taken he informed them that he was nauseated. They both left the room for four or five minutes, and upon re-entering the room heard groans and one of them thought the patient had gone to the bathroom and was vomiting. They discovered the patient, however, lying on his stomach on the floor behind the X-ray table and near a window with his foot wedged beneath the radiator and his head in the opposite direction from where he lay on the X-ray table. The requisition from the physician, directing the taking of X-ray pictures, did not indicate that the patient needed someone with him constantly. The technicians testified that 90 percent of the patients brought to the X-ray room complained of nausea and that this complaint was not unusual. There was ample testimony regarding the effect of the various drugs on the ability of a patient to control his movements and that they affected the ability to move or stabilize his movements. One doctor testified that, in his opinion, a patient of the age and size of the deceased who had such drugs administered to him as testified, did not think it would be a wise policy to leave such a patient unattended on an X-ray table. There was testimony that the procedure followed with the' deceased in the present case was common procedure in other hospitals, that is, that unless the attending physician indicates on the requisition blank for the X-ray pictures the necessity for special care, no special care is given. Much is said in the briefs of both parties, particularly that of the plaintiff in error, in attempting to demonstrate that the effect of the drugs would or would not cause the deceased to fall off the X-ray table. As we see the case, it was not necessary for the jury to find that the deceased fell off the X-ray table because of the effect of the drugs. The jury was authorized to find that the deceased fell after getting off the table in order to go to the bathroom because of his nausea, and then fell because of the effect of the drugs. The question is thus presented as to whether the two technicians in attendance and employees of the defendant hospital, should have foreseen that the defendant, because of his nausea, would attempt to go to the bathroom and should have foreseen that the defendant would likely injure himself in so doing because of the effect of the drugs.
A private hospital is under the duty to exercise such reasonable care in looking after and protecting a patient as the patient's condition which is known to the hospital through its agents and servants charged with the duty of looking after and supervising the patient may require. This duty extends to safeguarding and protecting the patient from any known or reasonably apprehended danger from himself which may be due to his condition, and to use ordinary and reasonable care to prevent it. Emory University v. Shadburn, 47 Ga. App. 643 (171 SE 192). See also, Tate v. McCall Hospital, 57 Ga. App. 824 (196 SE 906); Piedmont Hospital v. Anderson, 65 Ga. App. 491 (3) (16 SE2d 90); Stansfield v. Gardner, 56 Ga. App. 634, 643 (193 SE 375). Whether or not the two technicians in the X-ray room should have reasonably apprehended the occurrence which took place during their absence is a matter for the jury. That a jury could find that they should have reasonably apprehended danger is borne out by the fact that one of the technicians, upon seeing the X-ray table empty and hearing groans, immediately thought that the deceased had gotten off the table and gone to the bathroom to relieve his nausea. That this is the first thing that occurred to her is an excellent indication that she should have reasonably apprehended the same. While a hospital is not required to exercise medical skill, Porter v. Patterson, 107 Ga. App. 64 (129 SE2d 70), yet, a hospital, by its very nature, holds itself out as competent, through its employees, to care for the sick and the injured with more knowledge and skill than that ordinarily required by others. In our opinion, the evidence, while by no means strong and conclusive and not demanding a verdict for either party, was sufficient to authorize a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
This ruling in this case is not intended to mean, and should not be construed to mean, that a mere failure by a hospital to furnish a constant attendant to a patient constitutes negligence, or that the ruling herein made means that a "one-patient-one-attendant" rule is declared to be the law of this State, the contention of the plaintiff in error to the contrary notwithstanding.
The evidence for the plaintiff widow showed that the deceased earned the following salary and bonus in the respective years prior to his death: November, 1959, salary--$6,965.38, bonus--$2,108.48; 1960, salary--$6,625.00, bonus--$4,715.27; nine months of 1962, salary--$5,875.00, bonus--$5,328.00. The salary portion of his earnings alone, without consideration of the bonuses, show that his earnings in 1962 were an increase over 1959 and 1960. This would have authorized the jury to find the probability of increased earning capacity. Using the earning capacity for the nine months of 1962, as to salary only, as a criterion, and using the mortality tables introduced in evidence showing a life expectancy of 23.08 years and applying the method of computation based on such earnings as set forth in Atlanta, Birmingham &c. R. Co. v. Thomas, 64 Ga. App. 253, 255 (5) (12 SE2d 494) and applying the same to an annual salary of $7,833.24 per year (the nine months salary of 1962 projected for an additional three months) we arrive at a present cash value of the life of the deceased of $111,809.55. The verdict was less than four percent in excess of this amount. In view of all the evidence, including the fact that the deceased's earning capacity was greater in 1962, the year of his death, than it was in 1959 and 1960 and that he was only 47 years of age at the time of his death, we cannot say that the amount found by the jury was unauthorized or so excessive as to indicate bias and prejudice. In Swift & Co. v. Lawson, 95 Ga. App. 35 (97 SE2d 168) the amount found by the jury was almost 100 percent in excess of the amount authorized by the most favorable construction of the evidence as to earning capacity after almost doubling this capacity and almost doubling the life expectancy. It gas clear in that case that the amount arrived at by the jury could not possibly have been arrived at by a fair and proper construction of the evidence or upon any theory whatsoever.
The trial court did not err in overruling the motion of the defendant for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in overruling the defendant's motion for new trial.
Judgment affirmed. Frankum, J., concurs. Felton, C. J., concurs specially.
Telford, Wayne & Greer, Joe K. Telford, C. Dent Bostick, contra.
Troutman, Sams, Schroder & Lockerman, Whelchel, Dunlap & Gignilliat, James A. Dunlap, Harben & Harben, Sam A. Harben, Jr., for plaintiff in error.
DECIDED NOVEMBER 25, 1964 -- REHEARING DENIED DECEMBER 8, 1964 AND DECEMBER 17, 1964.
Friday May 22 21:42 EDT


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