The answer is YES, they can.
The reality is that the jury can do anything they want.
When your lawyer makes closing arguments at the end of your medical malpractice trial, he will often suggest a number that he believes to be appropriate to compensate you for all the harms, losses and damages you incurred because of your doctors' carelessness.
But that's just it...
It's a suggestion.
It's a recommendation.
It's not binding.
The jury is not obligated to give you that amount.
They could if they feel it's appropriate.
Unfortunately, when the case goes to the jury for a definitive answer, neither side has any idea what the outcome will be.
Anyone who tells you they can predict with any accuracy what a jury will do is pulling your leg.
Once the judge gives the jury legal instructions and tells them what questions they must answer in order to reach a verdict, it's now in their hands.
A jury could give you less.
A jury could give you more.
A jury could give you exactly what your attorney asks for.
I could ask a jury to give you $10,000,000.
Before the jury actually has to consider how much you are to receive for your injuries, they must first answer these important questions:
(1) Was the doctor negligent?
That means did he depart from good and accepted medical care.
Put another way, did he violate from the basic standards of good medical practice?
If no, your case is over and the jury NEVER gets to determine how much money you receive to compensate you for your injuries.
If the jury decides 'yes', then they MUST answer the next important question...
(2) Was the doctors' negligence a proximate cause of your injuries?
That really asks whether there's a link, a connection, between the wrongdoing and your injury.
In NY, we MUST show that there is that link between the doctors' carelessness and the harm you received.
If there is no link, your case is over and you get no money.
If however the jury determines that your injuries are a result of your doctors' wrongdoing, then the jury MUST go on to answer the next series of questions about how much you are to receive for all the harms and losses you suffered.
Keep this point in mind as you learn about jury verdicts...
No matter how good a case you have, the jury can throw you out of court without a dime.
On the other hand, you might have a questionable case and the jury can find in your favor and give you a substantial amount of money.
The bottom line is that yes, the jury can give you LESS than your attorney asks for.
In case you were wondering whether the trial judge will suggest an amount for the jury to consider, the answer would be a resounding no.
The trial judge is supposed to remain impartial and not give his thoughts about who should win or who should lose.
Nor is the judge supposed to suggest an amount for the jury to consider if they reach damages.