Trial Court Must Exercise Caution in Granting a Motion for Directed Verdict on an Opening Statement

Sandy Parrish, the administrator of the estate of Karen Parrish, filed a wrongful-death and survival action against physician Michael Jones, D.O., and other medical providers. The suit stemmed from what was alleged to be the negligent care of Karen Parrish, resulting in her death. 

On Dec. 30, 2004, Parrish was admitted to Adena Regional Medical Center and diagnosed with an acute peripheral-nerve disorder. She was then transferred to a rehabilitation center and was under the care of another defendant physician, Christopher Skocik, D.O. 

In the lawsuit, the Parrish family alleged that the medical staff treating Karen had been negligent by choosing not to prescribe the appropriate anti-coagulation therapy. It was further alleged in the complaint that as a direct and proximate result of that negligence, Karen died prematurely suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest and hypoxia due to a pulmonary emboli with saddle embolus and deep-vein thrombosis.

After pretrial discovery, the case went to trial in January 2011. At the close of Parrish’s attorney’s opening statement, the Skocik defendant moved for a directed verdict contending that Parrish’s counsel had failed to meet the burden of establishing a case of medical malpractice against the defendants. He stated that the Parrish attorney had failed to set forth in his opening statement a standard of care, deviation from the standard and causation. 

The trial judge granted the motion for directed verdict and Parrish brought this appeal. 

Before that and after the granting of a directed verdict, the jury trial continued. Dr. Jones was the sole defendant. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Jones and against the Parrish family. 

Parrish took this appeal, arguing that the trial judge had erred by choosing not to consider the complaint that plaintiff had filed along with the opening statement in making the ruling for directed verdict. The court of appeals in Ohio reversed the trial court’s decision. The court of appeals held that the trial judge was required to consider both the opening statement and the complaint before determining whether a directed verdict was appropriate. The court of appeals returned the case to the trial judge to revisit its ruling on the motion in light of the allegations made in the complaint. Because there was a conflict with another appellate court, the case was sent to the Ohio Supreme Court for its consideration. 

The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal’s decision on different grounds. The Ohio Supreme Court held that a trial court is not required to consider allegations contained in the pleadings when ruling on a motion for directed verdict made in consideration of an opening statement of an opponent. But the trial judge may look to pleadings in liberally construing the opening statement in favor of the party against whom the motion is made. The case was then remanded again back to the trial court for further disposition reversing the directed verdict and ordering a new trial.  There was also a dissent filed in the case that disagreed with the majority opinion.

Estate of Karen Parrish v. Michael Jones, D.O., et al., No. Slip Opinion 2013-Ohio-5224.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases and nursing home abuse cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Lake Zurich, Prospect Heights, Hawthorn Woods, Mundelein, Franklin Park, Oak Lawn, Morton Grove, Lombard, Chicago (Little Village, Roscoe Village, Greek Town, Lincoln Park) Tinley Park and Barrington, Ill.

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