Yet another nuclear verdict came out of Florida recently – this one to the tune of $68.6 million dollars. The case involved a plaintiff with a brain injury after a sodium imbalance.[i]
Plaintiff was suffering from diabetes insipidus, which can cause an imbalance of fluids in the body. She was found unresponsive when brought to a hospital, where it was discovered she suffered from a severe electrolyte imbalance. Several complications left her with brain damage which requires lifelong care.[ii]
At trial, jurors found four doctors responsible for the catastrophic brain damage and other injuries.[iii] Jurors awarded $50 million in pain and suffering alone, as well as $17 million for her medical expenses.[iv] As far as who was responsible for plaintiff’s injuries, jurors apportioned responsibility among each of the doctors who were treating her.[v]
Lessons from the Nuclear Verdicts® Defense Methods:
As Nuclear Verdicts® continue to rise, the Nuclear Verdicts® Defense Methods are more important than ever. One of these methods includes accepting responsibility, which, if used, would have been crucial in this trial.
During closing arguments, the doctors’ attorneys chose to focus on the medical opinion which showed it was actually the plaintiff’s own condition that caused her brain damage, and not the care of the doctors. Defense counsel stated the following: “She had a disease since she was two years old, an auto-immune disease that caused her to be diagnosed with it in 2016 and that brought her to the hospital in 2017…and notwithstanding the best care these doctors could give her, they could not slow it down.”[vi]
Although this information presented to the jury during closings may be true, it does little to defuse juror anger. The purpose of accepting responsibility, no matter how small it may be, is to help mitigate juror anger. Arguing that although the plaintiff suffered from a chronic disease, there was “nothing the doctors could have done” in fact does the opposite, and will only fuel the jury to want to award more money to the plaintiff.
Especially in a medical malpractice case, where emotions run high and jurors are likely to project their own fears onto the defendant’s conduct, accepting responsibility is crucial. This can be done by accepting responsibility for making appropriate decisions with the available information or based on the available medical literature.
There are several Nuclear Verdicts® Defense Methods which can be used to help diminish juror anger. Accepting responsibility is a big one. If a jury sees the defendant can be empathetic towards the issue at hand, and not play the blame game, it can go a long way in assisting in avoiding a nuclear verdict.
More by this author
[i] Crisco, Arlin, $68.6M+ Award in Med Mal Trial Over Woman’s Profound Brain Injury Following Sodium Imbalance, CVN, (Nov. 10, 2022), https://blog.cvn.com/jury-awards-68.6m-in-med-mal-trial-over-womans-profound-brain-injury-following-sodium-imbalance.
[ii] Crohan v. Furman, et al., 2019-CA-009248.
[iii] Crisco, supra note i.
[iv] Crohan, supra note ii, at [i].