Florida $28 Medical Malpractice Award Overturned Because of Jurors Alleged Misconduct

On Friday, I gave a small diatribe about the foolishness of allowing a doctor’s sttorneys, after getting hit with a $28 million medical malpractice verdict, to bring back the jurors to essentially cross examine them on their answers during voir dire. I explained that Maryland lawyers would not be able to pull this type of stunt under Maryland law and why I thought the law prohibiting the losing lawyers from bringing back jurors after a trial was prudent. I wrote that I hoped the Florida court would treat this case similarly to the approach a Maryland court would take.

Of course, this was a jinx. The Associated Press reports that Florida Circuit Court Judge Debra S. Nelson did order the jurors back to court, questioning them about their answers during voir dire. After two hours of argument after this questioning, the judge threw out the $28 million verdict and ordered a new trial because three of the jurors did not respond affirmatively to the Plaintiff’s malpractice attorney’s question during voir dire about prior lawsuits in which they were involved.

Ironically, these jurors did not fail to disclose claims they had brought, making them appear more plaintiff-friendly. Instead, they withheld information about lawsuits that had been filed against them. How the withholding of this evidence would prejudice a doctor accused of malpractice is a mystery. Believe me, if the doctor’s lawyers had been told during jury deliberations exactly what these jurors had withheld, these lawyers would not have thought for a second that their chances of prevailing had diminished in even the slightest way.

Again, I think the message this sends to lawyers is if you do not like the outcome and the stakes are high enough, attacking the jurors after the verdict may be an all-purpose palliative to the bite of an adverse verdict. In fact, in a case like this, there is no reason the lawyers could not have researched the jurors after they were selected, determined that they would not forthright during voir dire, and then put that information in their pocket pending the outcome of the case. This second-guessing of jurors by allowing them to be questioned about their voir dire responses is bad law in my opinion. I am glad we has some protections to avoid what I think is an injustice in this case.

I generally support the wide discretion judges are given in these kinds of situations but I hope this verdict is reinstated on appeal.

  • Being a former Florida native before becoming a Marylander, I can tell you that despite the conservative nature of many forums in Maryland as compared to Florida (in particular South Florida) towards Plaintiffs, Florida in many ways is still like the wild west with some of the stuff they pull down there on either side, plaintiff or defense.
    As to the health care insurance crisis, I think it is very easy to point the finger at the little guy who is victimized by negligent doctors and later stigmatized for seeking justice within our civil court system. As a former defense lawyer before switching over to the right side, I had the eye opening experience to represent hospitals and doctors in many different areas of law, including medical malpractice defense.
    Although not medical malpractice, health care fraud is rampant in this country on the part of providers which I think has a lot to do with the rising insurance premiums although we never hear about this. As an example, a family member of mine went to the ER at a hospital in Bradenton, FL, while on vacation for pelvic pain, received a CT scan of her pelvis, an IV drip, morphine and a brief visit with the doctor who gave her Motrin and discharged her the same day. She later received a bill for over $8,500.00!!! Her bill should have been at most not more than $ 1,500.00. Amazing what they do down in FL isn’t it! (I am sure this is not an isolated incident).
    Very Truly Yours,
    Gabriel A. Riveros
    Toll Free Number 866-425-9555; email: gabrielriveros@comcast.net

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