State Appellate Court Holds That Refusal to Excuse Juror with Connection to Defendant Physician Not an Abusive Discretion

A Washington State Appellate Court held that a trial court had not abused its discretion in allowing a juror with a connection to the defendant doctor to serve on a jury in a medical malpractice case.

In this case, a child and his parents sued the obstetrician, Dr. Kevin Harrington, alleging his negligence during the child’s delivery, which led to his brachial plexus nerve injury.

The family of the child sought to exclude various prospective jurors for cause, claiming they had a child delivered by the defendant physician, including Juror 25. Although the court excused several of the jurors, Juror 25 ultimately served in a jury, which returned a verdict for the defendant physician. The family of the child appealed from this verdict.

Affirming the trial court’s judgment order, the appellate court noted that a trial court is in the best position to determine whether a juror can be fair and impartial by observing the juror’s demeanor and evaluating his or her answers.

The existence of a doctor-patient relationship between the juror and one party does not imply bias, the court said, adding that the party who was challenging the juror must show actual bias that prevents the potential juror from deciding the case impartially and without prejudice. Citing case law, the court stated that the trial court must examine relevant circumstances to determine a juror’s actual bias.

In this case, the appellate court determined that the trial judge allowed both the plaintiffs and the defendants to question each juror about the relationship to Dr. Harrington, and the judge provided a reasoned decision on the record regarding each challenge for cause.

Those potential jurors with a recent or ongoing relationship with the defendant physician were jurors who expressed favoritism toward the doctor were excluded. Nevertheless, the trial court found that Juror 25, who had a remote relationship with the defendant physician, could remain impartial.

Accordingly, the appellate court held that the trial judge had adequate grounds for declining to excuse Juror 25 and, therefore, had not abused its discretion.

C.R. v. Harrington
, 2020 WL 1158097 (Wash. Ct. App.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling birth trauma injury lawsuits, brachial plexus injury lawsuits, traumatic brain injury lawsuits, labor and delivery negligence cases and wrongful death lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Skokie, Lincolnwood, Des Plaines, Franklin Park, Villa Park, Glen Ellyn, Winfield, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Orland Park, Chicago Heights, Olympia Fields, Park Forest, Frankfort, New Lenox, Orland Hills, Rosemont, Streamwood, South Barrington, Bensenville, Northfield, Chicago (Little Village, Logan Square, West Town, River North, Old Town, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village, Irving Park, Edison Park, Hermosa, Back of the Yards, Fuller Park, Douglas, Greek Town, Greater Grand Crossing, Chatham, Pullman, Morgan Park, Mount Greenwood), Burbank, Bedford Park, Cicero, Northfield, Evanston, Wilmette and Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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