GA Supreme Court to hear case after AL mother buries wrong stillborn baby

GA Supreme Court to hear case after AL mother buries wrong stillborn baby

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - An east Alabama woman's appeal of a 2011 decision versus a Columbus hospital will be heard in front of the Georgia Supreme Court next week.

The case, Coon v. The Medical Center, Inc., cites a 2011 lawsuit filed by Amanda Rae Coon versus hospital for damages related to emotional distress after Coon's stillborn daughter was mixed-up with another stillborn child.

The filing says that Coon gave birth to her stillborn daughter on Feb. 11, 2011, and placed in a hospital holding room until an Opelika funeral home could pick up the child's remains.

The baby's remains were placed in a holding room with another stillborn child, where identification tags were placed on the wrong child, and the Coon's had a funeral and buried the other infant.

The hospital recognized the error two weeks later, and they informed Coon's family, and the funeral home director traveled to Columbus to retrieve the infant's remains. After he returned, he found another error - the cadaver bag that was supposed to contain the infant's remains had a blanket inside instead.

The decomposing remains of the Coon baby were eventually picked up and buried, the brief says.

"The hospital paid the costs associated with the exhumation of the misidentified baby and the subsequent burial of the correct remains. Coon did not attend the second burial because she 'could not handle having to go through that all over again,'" the brief says

In March 2011, Coon sued the hospital, citing emotional distress. The hospital claims that Coon's claims do not fall under Georgia's "impact rule," which "requires that in a claim involving negligent conduct, recovery for emotional distress is allowed only where the person suffered a physical injury or monetary loss."

The brief explains the hospital's argument by stating:

Coon suffered no physical injury or pecuniary loss, and the conduct of the hospital was not "intentional, reckless, extreme, or outrageous." In response, Coon argued that Alabama law, not Georgia law, governs here because she suffered the emotional distress in Opelika, where she learned of the hospital's mistake and where the funeral service and burial had occurred. Coon further argued that under Alabama law, she was not required to prove physical injury, pecuniary loss, or intentional or reckless misconduct by the hospital to support her emotional distress claim because Alabama does not impose an "impact rule" on such cases.

Coon cited that her emotional distress was from burying a child she thought to be hers, exhuming the body and having to go through the burial of her child in Alabama; therefore, the briefs state, Georgia's "impact laws" should not apply because her home state has no such laws.

Coon's attorneys argue says:

Coon argued that the telephone call she received from the hospital, as well as her baby's funeral and other things, made Alabama the locus delecti. However, given that Alabama does not apply the impact rule, Alabama's law is radically dissimilar to Georgia law and therefore contrary to Georgia's public policy, the attorneys argue. Furthermore, this case involves a woman who gave birth to a stillborn child, and as a result, she was already suffering from emotional injury when she received the phone call notifying her of the hospital's mistake. 

A Muscogee County court initially ruled in favor of the hospital, and a subsequent appeal also upheld the previous decision. You can read the full brief by clicking here.

The oral arguments will be heard on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

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