Georgia Supreme Court rejects new trial in wrongful death plastic surgery suit

By Michelle de Leon | Dec 23, 2016

ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) – A wrongful death lawsuit filed against a plastic surgeon failed to get a new trial following a ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court affirming the exclusion of evidence that would have supposedly been helpful to the petitioner.

According to the Georgia Supreme Court, the appellate court erred in its decision to admit the deposition testimony given by an organizational representative in the wrongful death lawsuit between Dr. Patricia Yugueros and Rudy Robles. The Supreme Court said the appellate court failed to properly adhere to the rules of evidence governing the admissibility of an expert testimony.

The issue stemmed from the death of Robles’ wife, Iselda Moreno, in 2009. She received liposuction, buttock augmentation and abdominoplasty surgery on June 24, 2009. The operations were performed by Yugueros of Artisan Plastic Surgery LLC.

Following the surgery, Moreno experienced abdominal pain and was rushed to the emergency room at Gwinnett Medical Center (GMC). She was discharged by her doctor, Dr. Michael Violette, when her X-ray results showed no alarming signs of health problems.

However, the center’s radiologist, Dr. James York, refused to rule out the possibility of “free air” in her abdomen. According to him, this could either be a typical issue after an operation or a serious health problem. He provided these comments in the records of Moreno.

When Moreno’s pain escalated, Robles reached out to Yugueros. The couple were instructed to go to another hospital where the surgeon was affiliated. New tests were conducted on Moreno with Yugueros not contacting any of the doctors from GMC. She also did not ask for the results of Moreno’s prior examination in the center. The patient died on June 28, 2009.

Robles subsequently sued Yugueros and Artisan for the death of his wife. The lawsuit also tagged Violette, York and GMC as potentially liable non-parties to the suit.

During the proceedings in the trial court, Artisan sent Dr. Diane Alexander as the representative of the practice. She was identified as the founder and co-owner of the company. However, her expert testimony later on proved to be detrimental to Artisan as she revealed that Yugueros appeared to have breached the protocol in Morales’ condition.

According to the defense, Alexander could not be considered an expert in the case as her testimony failed to comply with the conditions needed to be declared as such. For one, the trial court found the founder of the company was not furnished with all the information necessary for her to make an expert opinion on the matter. 

Prior to the decision from the appellate court, the verdict released by the trial court sided with the defense. However, the plaintiff claimed that the victory was only due to the excluded evidence considered by the trial court – proof that could have swept the tides in his favor instead.

Upon the submission of the case to the appellate court, the evidence set aside by the trial court was included in the case and the petitioner emerged victorious. However, the Supreme Court of Georgia disagreed with the appellate court’s ruling.

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