An Ohio medical malpractice verdict rendered by an eight-person jury on May 2, 2013 after a nearly four-week trial is at the center of a controversy regarding whether it is a legitimate verdict and should stand. The controversy involves the fact that six of the jurors (the minimum number of jurors who must be in agreement in order to render a verdict) signed the jury form finding that an employee of the medical malpractice defendant hospital was negligent but a different mix of six jurors then signed the jury form finding that the hospital employee’s negligence did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries.
The parties and their attorneys were unaware of the discrepancy until after the verdict was announced, judgment was entered, and the jury was officially discharged. Unbeknown to the parties and their lawyers, the trial judge had been aware of the discrepancy and instructed the jury that only those jurors who found that the hospital employee was negligent could consider whether the negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The jury then deliberated for an additional four hours after which it returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding more than $2 million for his past and future medical expenses as well as additional damages (the total verdict was in the amount of $2.8 million).
The attorney for the defendant hospital only found out what happened with regard to the first verdict of the jury when he spoke to the jurors after they had been discharged. Court personnel then went through the trash to recover the original jury verdict forms. The defendant’s attorneys later filed a motion seeking to vacate the judgment and to enforce the original verdict that was in the hospital’s favor. A decision on the defense motion is not expected until September 2013, at the earliest (the trial judge went on maternity leave beginning on May 24, 2013).
The Underlying Facts
The medical malpractice plaintiff alleged that he was transported by ambulance to the defendant hospital on June 20, 2009 after he had stopped taking his psychiatric medications and became disoriented. During his hospital stay, the 42-year-old man was placed in restraints and sedated by a patient-care assistant. The following day, when he was no longer experiencing the effects from the sedation, he was unable to move his legs and he had limited use of his hands and arms due to a serious and permanent neck injury. His medical malpractice claim was that the patient-care assistant was negligent in the manner in which she restrained him, thereby causing his injuries.
Irregularities in jury deliberations in medical malpractice cases are infrequent. Typically, if the jury has a question or problem regarding its role, the evidence, or any other matter, it is instructed to notify the trial judge of the issue in writing. The trial judge will then discuss the issue/problem with the parties’ attorneys in open court and on the record to determine how the judge should respond to the jury. The judge will then have the jury come into the courtroom and the judge will instruct the jury accordingly in open court and on the record, with the parties’ attorneys present. In this manner, a consensus can often be reached among the parties and the trial judge on how the matter should be resolved and any party dissatisfied with the procedure or the resolution of the issue can place any such objections on the record outside of the jury’s presence so that the matter can be preserved for appeal purposes, if necessary.
If you may be the victim of medical malpractice in Ohio or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the advice of an Ohio medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may agree to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice lawsuit, if appropriate.
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