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Juror Wants to Make a Lifeline Call to Help Her Decide Which Way She Should Vote in Medical Malpractice Case Here in New York. Can She Do That?

It's done on Shark Tank from time to time.

It'd done on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Can it be done in a medical malpractice trial while the jury is deciding your verdict?

The answer is no, it can't be done.

There are no lifeline calls in a trial.

Jurors are not permitted to ask for help from anyone outside of their fellow jurors when deciding which way they should vote.

Not from friends.

Not from family members.

Not from people who have been through the jury process before.

Not even from the judge.

You see, at the end of a medical malpractice trial in NY, the judge tells the jury what the law is for this specific case.

Six members of the community have invested their time and energy to sit in judgment on your case.

The attorneys have selected six jurors to sit in judgment on your case.

These jurors have promised to be fair and impartial when evaluating whether you are more likely right than wrong.

These jurors have spent days if not weeks listening to testimony and evidence.

They have been repeatedly told by the judge that they're not to discuss the facts of this case with anyone.

Not with their spouse.

Not with their friends.

Not with coworkers.

There's a key reason for that.

The reason is that if a juror we're to discuss the facts with someone outside of the courtroom, that person would not be fully informed about the details of the testimony and evidence in the case.

That person will undoubtedly make comments and give opinions.

Those comments and opinions can influence how a juror perceives your case.

Those comments can influence jurors subconsciously and affect how they ultimately vote at the end of your case.

The jury is repeatedly told that the only time they can begin discussing the facts of this case is at the very end of the trial.

After the attorneys have made closing remarks.

After the judge has explained the law to the jury.

Only then, when six members of the jury go into the jury room can they now begin to answer the questions the judge has posed to them.

To decide whether you are entitled to a verdict in your favor.

You should know that in order to reach a verdict, the jury is required to answer a series of questions.

Questions about whether the people you sued were careless.

Questions about whether that carelessness was a cause of your injury.

Legally, that's known as proximate cause or causation.

If the jury determines that the people whom you sued were careless and that carelessness was a cause of your injury, the jury will then answer a series of questions about how much money you are to receive as compensation.

Compensation for all the harms, losses and disability you suffered.

Legally, we say that the jury must determine liability, causation and damages.

At the beginning of your trial, during jury selection, jurors often want to know how long your trial will last.

They want to know how long the testimony will take.

They want to know when they can expect to be finished with their jury service.

It's all a matter of expectations.

They want to be able to tell their family and their employer how long they can expect to be out.

It's a reasonable question, especially if a juror has never been through jury duty before.

There are inherent difficulties in answering that question.

The difficulty arises in that the attorneys have very little control over how long this case will take.

You might ask "How is that possible?"

Well, each attorney knows the number of witnesses they will be bringing into court to testify.

Each attorney has an estimate in their own mind about how long this case will take to try.

However, there are always unforeseen scheduling issues including days when the trial judge has other matters to attend to.

The judge of also controls when trial starts in the morning, when we take breaks during the day, when we take a lunch break and when we end for the day.

There are some judges who consistently start at 9:30 AM on the dot.

Others are not so punctual.

There are some judges who allow jurors to take an hour and a half lunch break.

Others are not so giving.

There are some judges who finish the day by 4 PM or 4:30 PM.

If your jury comes back from lunch at 2 PM and now they end for the day at 4 PM, that makes for a very short afternoon.

On the other hand, if the judge goes till 5 o'clock or later, that certainly gives everyone the opportunity to pack more into the day.

At the end of your trial, the judge tells the jurors that when answering the questions on the verdict sheet,  five out of the six jurors must be in agreement for each question.

They need not be unanimous on each question.

What that means is that not everyone has to agree on every single question.

For example, on the question of whether your doctor violated the basic standards of medical care, if five out of the six jours agree that he did violate the standard of care, that is sufficient for them to go onto the second question.

On the next question, "Was the doctor's carelessness a cause of the patient's injury?" again, only five jurors must answer 'Yes'.

Those five jurors do not have to be the same five as the ones who answered the previous question about whether your doctor was careless. 

Going back to jury selection for a moment, another question that potential jurors ask is "How long do they we have to sit injury deliberations at the end of the trial in order to reach a decision?"

Some jurors believe that they may be deciding this case for days or even weeks trying to make absolutely sure and 100% certain that what you are claiming is true.

The reality is that they don't have to sit there for days on end making absolutely sure that what you are claiming is true.

Instead, the jury only has to recognize that you are slightly more likely right than wrong that what you are claiming is true.

That's a significant difference than asking the jurors to be 100% sure.

Legally, that's known as the burden of proof.

We do not need to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you are entitled to verdict in your favor.

That burden supplies only in criminal cases.

On the other hand, a medical malpractice case is a civil lawsuit where you are seeking money as a form of compensation for all the injuries you suffered at the hands of your careless doctor.

In a civil lawsuit in New York, we only have to show that you are slightly more likely right than wrong  to justify verdict in your favor.

That explanation often gets a harsh objection from the defense lawyer.

He will argue that's telling them law in the case.

The reality is that during jury selection, lawyers are not permitted to tell the jurors what the law is or what the judge will be telling them at the very end of the case.

However, we do have to answer the jurors question honestly and without being evasive.

I have found this to be the easiest way to explain why they don't have to sit here for days on end being 100% sure that what we are claiming is true.

During jury deliberations jurors are supposed to share their ideas and raise questions about the evidence and the testimony that took place during the trial.

They're supposed to be open-minded and receptive to other people's opinions and thoughts.

Some people are natural leaders.

Others are followers.

There are some people who simply cannot make a decision.

They are indecisive.

Their opinions change with the wind after listening to every person who comments on the facts.

A juror may be afraid to take a stand and to state her position.

She may need guidance.

She's looking for help and trying to figure out which way to vote.

She desperately wants to make a lifeline call.

She wants to call a trusted friend.

She wants to call a trusted attorney from she knows.

She wants to call a family member who has experience with these types of matters.

She wants to go to the ladies room and while there, make a lifeline call.

She knows this is what happens on Shark Tank.

Some savvy entrepreneur has just been made a significant offer and now they want to run it by a trusted friend for advice.

She knows this has been done on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? 

You make a lifeline call to a trusted friend or family member seeking the answer to the all important question.

If your answer is correct, it will lead you on your way to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

That simply will not happen in a civil trial here in New York.

Will not happen.

Cannot happen.

If it does and anyone finds out, there will be signficiant repurcussions.

It could result in a mistrial.

It could result in being found in contempt of court.

To learn more about jury selection, I invite you to watch the quick video below...


Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer