It's possible because they screwed up your verdict. Big time.
Here's what happened...
You sued your doctor.
For medical malpractice.
For causing you harm and injury.
Not intentionally, but carelessly.
He was professionally careless on that one day.
That's all it took.
You were in the hospital for weeks recovering.
You went into rehab for three weeks after that.
Then you needed a visiting nurse seven days a week.
You needed help doing all your daily activities.
Your doctor also told you you'd need corrective surgery.
To fix the problems caused by your first surgeon.
More visiting nurses.
This will go on for years.
You're sitting home being unproductive.
That's not like you.
You loved your job.
You loved going to work each day.
This was your passion.
This was your calling.
Now, there's no way you can return to work.
You can't sit for long periods of time.
You can't stand for long periods of time.
You need frequent bathroom breaks.
You get annoyed easily.
You tend you yell a lot.
For no apparent reason.
Your kids stay away from you.
Your spouse has trouble communicating with you.
You've become a hermit in your own home.
Your bills are piling up.
Your mortgage is late.
Your car payments are late.
You're not earning any income.
It's a terrible cycle.
You're wondering what will happen when your kids go to college.
Who will pay for their tuition?
When your kids get married, who will help pay for their weddings?
When you need groceries next week, how will you pay?
While getting corrective medical care from another surgeon, he let's slip that your first surgeon may have done something wrong.
You never considered that possibility.
You trusted your doctor.
Your family suggests talking to a lawyer.
To see if you might have a real case.
A valid case against your doctor.
But, you've never sued anyone before.
You're not the 'suing type'.
What will your neighbors think?
What will your friends think?
What will your colleages at work think?
Then, your spouse says something that opens your eyes.
"WHO CARES WHAT THEY THINK?" she says.
They're not putting food on your table.
They're not wondering where you're getting money to pay your mortgage.
That's not going to happen.
Wake up and look around.
It doesn't matter what all those people think.
They don't know what you go through each day.
They don't know that you'll never be able to do your daily activities like you could before.
Stop worrying about what others will say and worry about you and your family.
You find an attorney and tell him your story.
He sympathizes with you and begins to investigate.
He has your records reviewed by a board certified surgeon.
One day your lawyer calls you.
"I just spoke to my medical expert. He tells me you have a good case."
"I'm starting a lawsuit on your behalf," he tells you.
Your doctor doesn't understand why you sued him.
He says "I did nothing wrong!"
Then he says "Even if I did something wrong, so did you!"
Then he says "Even if I did something wrong, whatever I did or didn't do, did NOT cause your injuries."
Then he says "Even if I did something wrong and it caused you harm, your injuries are not really that bad."
That makes you mad.
That infuriates you.
He won't accept responsibility for what he did.
Your lawyer says your doctor refuses to negotiate.
He refuses to enter into settlement negotiations.
That means you're going to trial.
In two to three years.
That's how long it will take you to get your case to trial.
That's New York.
Fast forward now a few years.
Your case comes up to trial.
Your attorney puts on all your evidence.
The end of your case finally arrives.
It's been two long weeks of trial.
It's been an emotional roller coaster for you.
Some days you feel giddy, knowing you're winning.
Other days you feel like crap, feeling like you're losing your case.
Some days you just have a huge knot in the pit of your stomach listening to the testimony and legal arguements.
It's time for closing arguments.
You love your lawyer.
You hate the defense lawyer.
After closing arguments are done, the Judge tells the court officer to lock the door.
Not to keep people from leaving.
Instead, to keep anyone from entering and interrupting the Judge.
The Judge spends an hour explaining the law to the jury.
He gives them specific instructions on what to do.
"You are to answer the questions on the verdict sheet," he tells them.
"Go in order. There's a specific sequence."
"Read the instructions so you'll know how and if to proceed to the next series of questions," the Judge says.
Then, he sends them into the jury room to begin their discussions.
You're worried about the verdict.
You have no idea what it will be.
Neither does your attorney.
Scared that the jury will throw you out of court without a dime.
"Bring the jury in," declares the judge to the court officer.
Moments later, the jury enters.
None make eye contact with you or your attorney.
"Mr. Foreman, have you reached a verdict?" the Judge asks.
"Yes we have judge," he replies.
You could see, for a fraction of a second, the judge start to shake his head while reading the verdict to himself.
You don't understand what that means.
You can't tell whether that's good or bad for you.
If there was any time in your life you wished you had superhuman x-ray vision, now was the time.
You desperately wanted to see what was written on that jury sheet while sitting all the way in the back of the courtroom.
But that was not to be.
You have to wait, like everyone else in the courtroom.
"The foreman will rise," the Judge says.
"As to the first question 'Was Dr. Jones negligent, how do you find?" the Judge asks authoritatively.
"We find Dr. Jones was negligent," he says quietly.
"As to the second question "Was Dr. Jones' negligence a proximate cause of this patient's injuries?" the Judge asks, already knowing the answer.
"We find Dr. Jones was NOT negligent," he says with a question and a cocking of his head while looking inquisitorily toward the other jurors.
"Very well. Your jury service is over. I want to thank you for your time. You are free to go," says the Judge with finality.
The jury foreman interrupts the Judge.
"Your honor, we're not done. There's more to the verdict..." he says.
"What do you mean? You've told me that there was no link between the patient's injuries and the doctor's wrongdoing. In that instance you were to stop and report back to the court that you've reached a verdict," the Judge says knowing there's more.
Shocked is a better word.
You were thrilled.
All you heard was that the jury gave you $5 million dollars.
But you got that strange hinky feeling something wasn't right.
The Judge had to regain control.
"I told you to answer the questions in order. How did you answer questions about damages if you were told to stop?" the Judge demanded to know.
The jury foreman began to answer.
Your lawyer jumped up and interrupted.
"Excuse me Judge. This might be a good time to poll the jury to see if what they really intended is what is reflected on the jury sheet," says your attorney.
"Very well," replied the Judge.
All six agree that your doctor was negligent. He was careless.
He violated the basic standards of medical care.
"Ok, that's great," you think.
"As to the second question, 'Was Dr. Jones' negligence a proximate cause of this patient's injuries?' How do you find Juror #1?"
"Yes, he was," he responds.
That prompts the Judge to look confused.
He continues. "Juror #2?"
"Yes, his negligence was a proximate cause of the patient's injuries," he replies.
"Yes Judge, I agree with Jurors #1 and 2. His negligence was a proximate cause of the patient's injuries."
This is getting interesting.
Lots of drama right now.
There's an inconsistency somewhere.
The Judge goes down the line with each juror.
They ALL agree that the doctor was negligent.
They ALL agree that his negligence was a cause of your injuries.
That contradicts what the jury foreman read on the verdict sheet.
"Juror #3...is that your verdict?"
"Juror #4...is that your verdict?"
They all agree.
$2 million for your past pain and suffering.
$2 million for your future pain and suffering over the next 35 years.
$1 million for your lost earnings.
The Judge can't take the stupidity of this jury.
He has to ask the question.
If you all agree that this doctor was careless and caused this patient injury, how is it that the jury sheet says no, the doctor's actions did NOT cause her injuries.
The jury foreman meekly says "Judge, I think I checked off the wrong box while we were talking. I made a mistake writing down what we all agreed to. We all agreed that the doctor was careless and his carelessness caused this patient harm and injury. Sorry for the misunderstanding," he says.
But now the judge fixed the problem.
So, getting back to the headline of this article, what does it mean if the jury gave you significant money but also found that your doctors' actions did not cause you injury? It means they screwed up somewhere. It means there's an inconsistency. It means the judge needs to get to the bottom of it before he sends the jury home.