They've been sitting patiently for two weeks listening to all the evidence. They've heard all the witnesses. They've seen all the evidence. They've politelly sat through all the arguments and objections. They've heard the judge give them instructions on the law.
It's taken more than two years to get to this point.
It all started because your doctor was careless that one day. The day he was supposed to perform a 'routine' surgical procedure on you. The day he told you 'everything would be Ok'. You believed him. You liked him. You trusted him.
Well, you went into the hospital relatively healthy and came out with horrible injuries. You were in the intensive care unit for an entire week. Then you needed rehab for months. You couldn't work. You couldn't care for yourself. You needed additional medical care and additional surgery.
Your doctor told you he'd done this procedure thousands of times. After your surgery, your doctor came to you with a long look on his face. He apologized and told you there were some complications during surgery. "Unavoidable," is the word he used. "So sorry," he said. "Let's get you better now," is what he told you and your family.
Day after day, lying in that hospital bed, you begin to wonder how and why you wound up in that condition. The more you talk to people who visit you and who are caring for you, you get the sense that your injuries never should have happened. Even the doctors who are treating your new injuries don't understand how you wound up with these injuries.
Months after getting out of the hospital and being unable to work you're lying in bed watching mindless daytime TV when you see an ad for an attorney. That lawyer is talking about something similar to what happened to you! Before you have a chance to grab a pen and paper, the commercial is over. That prompts you to open up your laptop and start searching for an attorney.
You start looking for a lawyer who has handled the exact type of problem you have. You read a bunch of articles by attorneys. You watch a lot of educational videos on YouTube from lawyers who are explaining how your type of case works. You finally find the lawyer who you think is best for you.
He tells you he'll get your medical records and have a board certified medical expert review them and get back to you. Two months later he tells you that you have a valid case. He says that there were clear violations from the standard of care and that the wrongdoing was a cause of your injuries.
That means that he's going to start a lawsuit on your behalf. That means that he'll be suing your surgeon and the hospital staff who participated in the surgery.
You are confident you have a great case. You're confident you're going to win. You're confident that the doctor and hospital staff will immediately realize they screwed up and will want to settle this case quickly.
Your confidence turns to frustration when your lawyer tells you that's not reality.
Your confidence turns to anger when your lawyer tells you that the defense says they did nothing wrong.
Your confidence turns to sadness and disappointment when your attorney tells you that your surgeon refuses to acknowledge he did anything wrong and certainly does not believe whatever he did caused your injuries.
Finally, after more than two long years, your case finally comes up for trial.
You're nervous. You're apprehensive. You're worried.
You could win. You could lose. You could win and your case will be appealed by the defense.
The jury could give you a lot of money to compensate you for your injuries.
Then again, the trial judge could cut that award to pieces if he didn't feel that money was justified.
The jury could give you more than what you're asking for.
They could give you less that what you're asking for.
They could, theoritically, give you nothing!
There have been many ups and downs during your trial.
There have been days when you felt elated and you would definitely win.
Then there are days when your case is going to crap and you feel there's just no way you could win.
The judge has just finished instructing the jury on the law in New York. It took him an entire hour to do that. During that time the courtroom door was locked to prevent anyone from entering and disrupting his legal instructions. Then, after telling the jury what they needed to do, the judge gave them a set of questions they needed to answer.
Specific questions. Questions that go in order. Once they answer the first question, they are to then answer question number two. There are multiple questions. Questions that call for yes or no answers. If the answers to certain questions are 'no' then your case is over and you get nothing.
"Question #1: Was Dr. Jones careless?"
(Actually, the correct wording would be "Was Dr. Jones negligent?")
What that really means is "Did Dr. Jones depart from the basic standards of medical care?"
If the answer is "Yes," then the jury must go on to the next question.
If the answer is "No, then your case is over and you get nothing.
The next question will usually focus on causation. That's the link between the wrongdoing and your injury. There must be a connection, a bridge between the two.
"Question #2: Was that wrondoing a cause of the patient's injuries?"
(The better wording of the question would be "Was Dr. Jones' negligence a proximate cause of the patient's injuries?")
Proximate cause is that link that connects the improper medical care to your injury.
If the answer is "Yes," the jury will then go on to answer a series of questions about your damages.
If the answer is "No," then your case is over and you get nothing to compensate you for your injuries.
If the jury starts to answer questions about your damages, they're trying to determine how much money you are to receive for each element of damages you're claiming in your lawsuit.
You'd love nothing more than to peek into the jury room to see what they're doing.
You'd love nothing more than to press your ear to the door to hear what they're saying.
You'd love nothing more than to have closed circuit tv in the jury room to see AND hear what they're doing on your case.
The anxiety is off the charts.
You can't read. You can't pay attention. You can't concentrate on anything else.
Your lawyer is busy making phone calls and checking his email.
Your spouse senses your nervousness and gives you space.
The waiting is interminable. It's worse than waiting for a bus to come. It's worse than waiting for the train to show up. It's worse than waiting for your doctor to call you in for a scheduled appointment an hour late. You're just sitting around waiting. During this time your mind begins to wonder.
Are they leaning toward a verdict in your favor or not? You being to replay the testimony in your mind. You go through the ups and downs of testimony given by different witnesses. You go through the many times the judge objected to your attorney trying to get in favorable evidence. You get angry just thinking about the many times the defense lawyer objected to questions your lawyer was asking different witnesses.
"WHAT'S TAKING THEM SO LONG?" you ask your lawyer.
Minutes turn into hours. Hours turns into another day.
"HOW COULD THEY NOT HAVE REACHED A DECISION ALREADY?" you ask your attorney.
He gives you some mumbling explanation that there's no time limit for the jury to consider the evidence and answer all the questions they need to on their instruction sheet. It could take minutes. It could take hours. It could even take days to get a decision, he tells you.
This is frustrating. It feels like this is taking forever. You can't get anything done while you're waiting for the jury to decide. You can't listen in on the jury's deliberations. They're done in secret, behind closed doors. All you can do is sit and wait.
And wait, and wait.
You're waiting for a sign.
You're waiting for a signal.
You're waiting for someone to tell you that they've reached a verdict.
You want an answer.
You've been waiting years for an answer and it all comes down to this.
The attorneys are waiting for an answer.
Your spouse is patiently waiting with you.
Actually, the jury has a question.
They need a legal instruction read back to them.
They want the judge to clarify what he means.
Then, an hour later, the jury comes back with another request.
They want some testimony read back.
They want to know exactly what one of the witnesses said in response to a series of questions.
Your mind is racing. You want to know WHY they want this information. What has come up during jury deliberations that prompted them to want this additional information. All the variations of what could happen are pulsing through your mind and your heart rate speeds up and as the questions the jury wants answered are perplexing.
An hour later, the jury comes back with another question.
"Judge can we have a calculator please?"
That prompts a whole bunch of questions to your attorney about WHY the jury would want a calculator.
Waiting for the jury to reach their verdict is the hardest thing you've ever done.
It's the waiting that's hard. It's not knowing what's going on that's hard. It's the unknown that's difficult.
Finally, after hours of waiting around the court house, the jury tells the Judge they have reached a verdict.
Finally, the jury has a decision.
The Judge tells the clerk to alert the attorneys that the jury has reached a verdict.
"Get the attorneys back into the courtroom," he says.
Your heart rate is racing.
The anticipating is killing you.
You're dying inside wondering what the verdict is.
"Hurry up already!" you think to yourself as your breathing has speeded up and you begin to sweat.
Your palms turn sweaty and it seems as if there's no air conditioning in the courtroom anymore.
The opposing attorneys finally arrive back in the courtroom.
The court officer asks if he should get the jury and the judge says "Yes."
Everyone in the courtroom stands and eagerly eyes each juror as they enter the courtroom.
None of the jurors make eye contact with you or the attorneys. They focus only on the judge.
"Has the jury reached a verdict?" the judge asks the foreperson.
"Yes Judge, we have," responds the jury foreperson.
"Let me see it," he says simply.
The court officer takes the written jury verdict from the foreperson and brings it to the judge.
The judge carefully opens the paper and reads it to himself.
Every person in that courtroom is trying to see through that paper, hoping they have x-ray vision, what's written on there.
The anticipation is torture.
You have a knot in your stomach.
You feel like throwing up right now.
This is it.
This is the moment you've waited for.
It's taken you years of your life to get to this point and you don't want to wait another second.
You scream out in your mind "JUST TELL US ALREADY!"
The judge keeps a poker face after he's just read the verdict sheet.
You have no idea what he just read.
You have no idea yet what the outcome will be.
The judge hands the verdict sheet back to the court officer to return back to the jury foreperson.
"Mr. Foreman, please rise. On the first question "Was Dr. Jones negligent?" how do you answer?
"We find Dr. Jones WAS neglient," says the foreman.
You're trying to process that information but it goes over your head for the moment.
"On the second question, "Was that negligence a proximate cause of this patient's injuries, how do you find?"
"We find that Dr. Jones' negligence WAS a proximate cause of this patient's injuries," he responds.
You think the answers are in your favor but you're having difficulty understanding the words and putting the answers together.
Your breathing quickens. Your heart is racing and you are sweating profusely now.
You're squeezing your spouse's hand tightly.
This prompts a huge sigh of relief from you with a short outburst of "Thank God!"
Now, in just a few short seconds, the jury's answers begin to make sense. They've decided in your favor! YOU WON! YOU WON YOUR TRIAL! They're now telling you how much money you are to receive for all the harms, losses and damages you incurred.
All because of your doctor's carelessness that one day so many years ago.
Waiting for that verdict was the hardest thing you've ever had to do.
Now that you've won your trial, the appeals process is just beginning.