Georgia doctor hit with $1.5 million verdict in bizarre women’s health case

Pregnant woman. Photo by J.K. Califf license CC SA 2.0 via Flickr

Abortion foes in Cobb County, Georgia are reaping the benefits of an especially absurd lawsuit against a doctor and the clinic he owns thanks to a jury that awarded nearly $1.5 million to a local property owners association.

Dr. Daniel McBrayer closed the Alpha OB/GYN clinic in 2015, according to court records, The Marietta Daily Journal reports. For years, the clinic was a target of anti-abortion protesters carrying huge signs. It was even a target of arson in 2012. Then a lawsuit by the Governor’s Ridge Property Owners’ Association which argued the clinic was a nuisance and violated the association’s rules.

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In essence, the claim was that the anti-abortion protesters created such a nuisance that it was impossible for people to enjoy their property undisturbed, Law & Crime reports.

But if that’s the case, shouldn’t the protesters be sued instead? After all, they were creating the disturbance, not Dr. McBrayer and his clinic. Attorneys for the association said there were also concerns that there may be another fire. Even so, that’s not the doctor’s fault. This is just patently absurd.

And Law & Crime writer Elura Nanos, a former prosecutor and former CEO of Lawyer Up, has her own thoughts about it.

“Talk about some next-level victim-blaming,” she writes. “One wonders whether these attorneys are also in the business of accepting contingency fees for folks looking to sue churches, synagogues, and mosques that have been victimized by hate groups.”

Nanos adds that using nuisance laws is also a clever gambit. These laws enable property owners to file claims against anyone creating a substantial nuisance or in any way interfering with the owner’s enjoyment of private land. The laws exist to help those who are dealing with neighbors who blast music at 2 a.m. or who stack up rotting, stinking garbage right next to the property line. They aren’t there to punish doctors who are helping to support women’s reproductive rights.

“The idea that property owners should be compensated for shouldering the extreme burden of tolerating women exercising their right to seek medical attention is brazen beyond comprehension.”

Nanos also chides the plaintiffs for their blatant actions as they were “willing to throw the law out the window to punish Dr. McBrayer.”

“You see, nuisance liability always requires that the defendant’s action be both the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. In non-legalese, that means that it’s not enough that the plaintiffs here were bothered by the protesters; the source of the nuisance needed to be the clinic’s fault,” she wrote.

She added that anyone with a knowledge of how torts (defined as a civil wrong or wrongful act) actually work, already know “that intentional actions by third parties (like, for example, a gaggle of anti-abortion zealots) severs any causal connection between a complaining landowner and a nuisance defendant.”

This is really just a fancy explanation that means the property owners should have sued the anti-abortion protesters.

And, Nanos adds, there’s definitely some irony here. Those involved in the case, including Cobb Superior Court Judge S. Lark Ingram, didn’t feel compelled to follow the law. Rather interesting since Ingram lambasted a father who represented himself in a custody dispute because he didn’t know the proper court procedures.

It’s not certain at this point whether the clinic will file an appeal. But all this really shows is just how far some anti-abortion activists will go in order to get what they want and set women’s rights back another 100 years.

Photo by J.K. Califf license CC SA 2.0 via Flickr