Appeals court upholds $5M verdict amputation of Warner Robins woman’s legs

awomack@macon.comOctober 11, 2013 

The Georgia Court of Appeals has upheld a $5 million verdict in a 2008 medical malpractice case involving the amputation of a Warner Robins woman’s legs after she was misdiagnosed at a local hospital emergency room.

Ellen Wadsworth went to the emergency room at Houston Medical Center on Thanksgiving Day in 2008 complaining of excruciating pain in both her feet, which were cold to the touch. The then 61-year-old was misdiagnosed with a skin infection and discharged.

Shortly after midnight, she was rushed to the hospital after becoming unresponsive. Medical staff discovered blockages in the arteries in her legs that led to Wadsworth being taken to Macon and her legs being amputated below her knees.

Her lawyer has argued there was a six-hour window in which her legs could have been saved had she not been misdiagnosed.

In 2012, a Gwinnett County jury awarded Wadsworth damages against Gregory Howland, the physician’s assistant who misdiagnosed her; Dr. Paul Paustian, the physician who signed off on the diagnosis; and Georgia EM-I Medical Services, PC, the company that contracts emergency room physicians for the hospital.

Attorneys representing the physician’s assistant, doctor and Georgia EM-I Medical Services, PC, argued in their appeal that the trial court made several mistakes.

They contend the presiding judge gave jurors confusing instructions and was wrong to deny their motion for “directed verdict” based on what they said was Wadsworth’s failure to show “gross negligence by clear and convincing evidence,” according to the appellate ruling issued Wednesday.

The lawyers also argued that it was an error for the jury to be allowed to decide whether Wadsworth’s claims came from the provision of “emergency medical care” as defined by the law, according to the ruling.

The appellate court ruled it couldn’t find any “reversible error.”

Attempts to reach attorneys who representing Wadsworth, Howland, Paustian and Georgia EM-I Medical Services, PC, were unsuccessful Friday.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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