On December 17, 2014, a North Carolina medical malpractice jury found that the defendant surgeon was negligent in performing surgery on a pregnant patient in 2009. The medical malpractice testimony in the case began on December 8 and was capped by the defendant testifying on his own behalf the day before the verdict was announced by the jury. The jury deliberated for about one hour before finding in favor of the plaintiff.
The jury will return to court on a later date to determine the amount of damages to be awarded to the plaintiff.
Most medical malpractice cases involve the issues of liability and damages being submitted to the jury at the same time – the jury is instructed that it is to decide if the standard of care had been breached by the defendant and, if so, if the breach caused injury to the plaintiff (causation), for which the jury is then responsible to determine the amount of damages to be awarded to the plaintiff. However, in some cases, if requested by one or more of the medical malpractice parties and if the judge agrees, the case may be bifurcated – the case initially proceeds before the jury on the issue of liability only and if the jury finds no liability (a defense verdict), then the case is over; if the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff on the issue of liability, then the same jury (or a different jury in some cases) will consider the amount of damages to be awarded.
One of the main reasons why a jury may be instructed to decide the issue of liability only is if the injuries and damages claimed by the plaintiff are extreme or complicated and may require much evidence and testimony to be submitted to the jury for its consideration. Under such circumstances, it may make sense for the jury to determine the issue of liability first because a defense verdict on liability will save much trial time and trial expenses (such as the enormous costs of having multiple medical and other experts come to trial and testify on behalf of the respective parties with regard to the extent and effect of the allege injuries and damages – such as medical experts, rehabilitation experts, life care planners, and others).
In the North Carolina medical malpractice case, the defendant had performed an emergency appendectomy on the pregnant plaintiff on December 25, 2009. The plaintiff required a second appendectomy in May 2010 after she developed appendicitis in the remaining 4 cm of her 11.2 cm appendix that had been left during the 2009 surgery. As a result of the second surgery, the plaintiff delivered her baby four months early. The baby spent six months in the NICU and has developmental disabilities, allegedly as a result of the defendant’s medical negligence.
It is expected that the damages portion of this North Carolina medical malpractice case may involve extensive lay and expert testimony. The defendant surgeon probably requested that the trial be bifurcated because of concern that the injuries suffered by the child would inappropriately sway the jury during the liability phase of the trial.
If you suffered injury as a result of the medical negligence of a surgeon in North Carolina or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the advice of a North Carolina medical malpractice attorney (or a medical malpractice attorney in your state) who may investigate your surgical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case against a surgeon, if appropriate.
Visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice lawyers in North Carolina or in your state who may assist you.
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