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Smith v. Finch

Supreme Court of Georgia
681 S.E.2d 147 (2009)


Justin Smith (plaintiff) went to a series of physicians and other health-care providers (the physicians) (defendants) after developing a rash across his hands, arms, legs, and feet. At the time, the physicians diagnosed Smith with a viral illness. Later, however, it was determined that Smith actually had a rare disease transmitted by ticks, which was known as Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). Smith’s parents sued the physicians on Smith’s behalf, claiming that the physicians had negligently failed to correctly diagnose Smith’s illness. At trial, expert witnesses for Smith testified that the physicians should have considered RMSF based on the symptoms displayed by Smith and the fact the illness was contracted in the summer in Georgia. The physicians claimed that Smith’s symptoms were equally consistent with their diagnosis of a viral illness. The trial court instructed the jury that the physicians could not be found negligent merely on the basis of hindsight, and that negligence did not include foreseeing illnesses that were only slightly possible. The jury returned a verdict for the physicians. Smith appealed, arguing that the jury instruction was incorrect and prejudicial.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Hunstein, J.)

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