Published on:

Special Verdict in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

In a recent case from the Supreme Court of California, the case was tried before a jury, and jurors returned what is known as a special verdict. A normal verdict form is simply one that asks if the defendant is liable or not, and if the defendant is liable, then the jury is expected to also decide the amount of damages (financial compensation) that should be awarded to the plaintiff.  If there is no finding of negligence, then there is obviously not a need to return an award of damages.

toolHowever, there can also be special verdict forms that ask jurors to separately decide on different elements of a tort ,such as negligence, because in some cases, additional elements must be established for certain penalties and monetary awards to be triggered.  In this case, the jury returned a special verdict that found defendant was negligent in treating defendant, but that their negligent treatment was not responsible for him becoming a quadriplegic.  Shortly following the verdict, plaintiff died, and an autopsy was preformed.  At this autopsy, additional evidence was discovered that plaintiff alleged was proof the jury could have used to find the negligence did cause the quadriplegia.  At that point, plaintiff, now his estate being administered by his surviving spouse, moved for a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence. However, it was determined that plaintiff did not pay a filing fee in a timely manner, and since the defendant did not object to the failure to timely pay the fee, a new trial was ordered.

At this point, the defendant argued on appeal that the new trial should not have been granted, because the fee was not paid on time.  As our Boston personal injury attorneys can explain, medical malpractice cases in particular can be very complex, and the best thing you can do during your initial consultation is to make sure your attorney has a considerable amount of experience representing plaintiffs in these types of cases.

The court of appeals listened to the arguments from both sides and determined that the new trial was properly granted.  This has to do with a complex issue in appellate law pertaining to whether a litigant made a timely objection for the basis, and is therefore said to have preserved the issue for appeal.

The way appellate courts works is that they review the record of the prior hearings and listen to arguments and read papers.  This means the court of appeals will read the transcript to get the record of a case and look at exhibits that are preserved on the docket.  The court of appeals will not listen to new evidence for the most part. The reason behind this is that the courts feel that the trial judge is the best position to evaluate the evidence, since these lower courts get a like view of the evidence.  This translates to issues on appeal, because if the objection was not made at trial or at the proper time, it is not in the record, and, therefore, the record does not speak to that issue.  If the record doesn’t speak to something, it is not appealable in most cases.

If you are injured in Boston, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Kabran v. Sharp Memorial Hospital, January 19, 2017, California Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Summer Swimming Pool Safety in New England, May 15, 2014, Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Blog