GA Court Answers Evidence Question

The Georgia Supreme Court was confronted with this question:  "In what circumstances, if any, is evidence of a nurse’s failure to pass a licensing  examination admissible in a medical malpractice action against the employing physician?"

Plaintiffs’ son Luke was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis resulting in brain damage and quadriplegia. Plaintiffs claimed that Luke’s pediatrician and his employees should have picked up on the symptoms given the information provided in a series of contacts.   Plaintiffs  introduced expert testimony that the pediatrician, Dr. Basilio, violated the standard of care by permitting an unlicensed nurse to answer weekend calls and give advice without consulting a supervising physician. To support that  testimony, the Sniders showed that Nurse DeVera was not licensed. However, the trial court did not allow the Sniders to show that Ms. DeVera failed to pass the nursing board examination.

The Georgia Supreme Court agreed.  It said as follows:  "Simply put, the issue in this case is not whether Ms. DeVera was generally competent, but whether Dr. Basilio breached the standard of care in hiring her because she was unlicensed. On this issue, the plaintiffs’ experts were able to testify that Dr. Basilio breached the standard of care by hiring an unlicensed nurse and allowing her to answer weekend calls without supervision. The fact that Ms. DeVera was unlicensed was key to resolving this issue. Why she was unlicensed was not."

The case is Snider v. Basilio, S06G0559 (Ga. S.C. October 30, 2006).  Read the opinion here.