Georgia Supreme Court: Disabled Child Can Attend Malpractice Trial

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted an appeal to a family that said their disabled child was wrongly excluded from attending her own medical malpractice trial. In a 6-1 decision, the court reversed a decision made by a trial court judge that limited the amount of time Kyla Kesterson was allowed to attend her own trial to when it was “essential and relevant” to witness testimony. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the original lawsuit in Clarke County alleged that obstetrician Dr. Walter Jarrett and his team erred in the delivery of Kyla, resulting in a serious form of cerebral palsy.

In the original trial, in Clarke County Superior Court, the jury found Dr. Walter Jarrett, Athens Obstetrics and Gynecology, and St. Mary’s Hospital not guilty of the malpractice claim. It was alleged that the doctor and team did not respond to readings from the fetal heart monitor, indicating that they should have done a C-section instead of the delivery that ultimately led to oxygen loss and brain damage. The lawsuit, brought by Kayla’s parents, was taken to the Georgia Court of Appeals, where the verdict by the lower court was upheld.

But since 13-year-old Kyla was not able to be present for most of her own trial, her attorneys appealed to the state’s highest court, which granted them a new trial. Kyla is confined to a wheelchair and is unable to speak, has limited cognitive function, can’t commit voluntary movement, has a feeding tube, must have her airway suctioned multiple times per day, and has frequent seizures.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias wrote for the majority, saying that Kyla could not be "denied her right to be present in court based solely on the risk that her physical or mental condition may generate improper sympathy from the jury, even if her condition prevents her from actively participating or fully understanding the proceedings. The right of a natural party to be present in the courtroom when her case is being tried is deeply rooted in the law of this nation and, if anything, even more embedded in the law of this state."

No matter what the ultimate jury decision is, this ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court on the side of the Plaintiff is important for the law. It guarantees that Kayla and similar disabled individuals will be able to attend their own trials, and further gives this family the most opportunity possible to seek the outcome they desire. Sadly, cerebral palsy and other birth defects are not uncommon, leaving children and families with physical, emotional, and financial difficulties well into the future. If you or a loved one has experienced a child that was injured during birth, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Morgan & Morgan birth injury attorney. You may be eligible to receive compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, long-term care and rehabilitation, and lost wages. To receive a free consultation, fill out our no-obligation case review form today.

By Staff