Attorneys Jim Poe and Charles Scholle of Scholle Law obtained a verdict of $14 million dollars on behalf of client Rosalind Johnson on May 21, 2019, following a week-long trial. The case was heard before Judge Joe Iannazzone in Gwinnett County State Court. Jury deliberations lasted nearly 8 hours.
Rosalind Johnson, a Gwinnett County resident and career member of the US military, suffered severe and permanent bilateral eye damage during a neck surgery at Gwinnett Medical Center in November 2014. Ms. Johnson was referred to a Gwinnett surgeon to perform a neck surgery in the prone position, meaning that the operation was performed with the patient lying face-down. After Ms. Johnson was intubated and anesthetized, her body was flipped over and antiseptic skin prep solutions were applied to the back of her neck to pre-emptively sterilize the incision site. These antiseptics included “Hibiclens” and “Chloraprep”, which both contain the active ingredient “chlorhexidine gluconate,” which causes severe damage to the eyes and mucosal tissues of the body if it is allowed to enter. Chlorhexadine gluconate binds to proteins in mucosal tissues of the body, so it becomes impossible to remediate its effects after remaining for more than a few minutes. Undetected by the anesthesia team or any other person in the operating room, the skin prep chemicals containing chlorhexidine seeped down the back of Rosalind’s neck to her face and into her eyes at the beginning of the surgery.
During an invasive neck surgery with a general anesthetic, the anesthesia team, consisting of an anesthesiologist and a nurse anesthetist, administers anesthesia and is responsible for eye protection. The legal standard of care requires the anesthesia team tape the eyes tightly closed. They also must watch the patient carefully to ensure that no skin prep chemicals get near the eyes. The nurse anesthetist has primary control of the patient, while the anesthesiologist is the doctor that oversees and supervises the nurse anesthetist during the surgery. Under Georgia law, an anesthesiologist can simultaneously supervise up to 4 different operating rooms, employing 4 different nurse anesthetists, but the anesthesiologist must be vigilant to ensure that his or her nurse subordinates know what they are doing and do the job correctly.