Estate Argues for a Mistrial on Appeal in Maryland Medical Malpractice Case

Developing an appropriate trial strategy in a Maryland medical malpractice case takes legal knowledge and experience.  It may also have a significant impact on the outcome of the case.  A December 31, 2018 medical malpractice case illustrates the importance of following court orders and procedures during a trial.

In the case, the plaintiff’s actions during trial prompted the judge to admonish her while the jury was seated in the courtroom.  The plaintiff’s counsel requested a mistrial, arguing that the exchange had unfairly influenced the jury against the plaintiff.  The trial court denied the motion, and the issue was appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case was the estate of a patient who had died while receiving medical care at the defendant’s hospital.  The personal representative of the estate, who was the daughter of the patient, filed the action alleging that the defendant was negligent in providing medical treatment to her mother.  Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to prevent admission of photographs of the patient’s skin wounds to the jury.  The judge granted the motion, finding that the photographs could not be authenticated.

On the first day of trial, the defendant’s attorney informed the judge that he saw the estate’s representative arrange the photographs of her mother on the trial table in such a way that the jurors could potentially view them.  Before the jury returned from lunch, the judge warned the parties, and specifically the plaintiff, not to display anything that might be visible to the jury that was not entered into evidence.

During the direct examination of the second witness, the judge observed the plaintiff shuffling documents around the trial table, potentially making them visible to the jury.  The judge instructed the plaintiff to sit in the front row of the gallery, away from the trial table.  The judge then instructed the jury that they were to disregard anything that had not been entered into evidence.

On the next day of trial, the plaintiff’s attorney moved for a mistrial, contending that the judge’s admonishment of the plaintiff was prejudicial.  The judge denied the motion.  The plaintiff’s attorney then informed the court that in light of its decision, it would rest its case.  The defendant moved for a judgment in its favor and, when the plaintiff did not argue to oppose the motion, the court granted it.

On appeal, the court held that because the plaintiff chose not to continue presenting evidence to establish its claim, and instead rested its case, the plaintiff effectively consented to the adverse judgment entered against it.  As such, the appeals court affirmed the entry of judgment for the defendant.

The Maryland medical malpractice lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. have successfully litigated claims on behalf of injured plaintiffs and their families.  We handle personal injury cases arising from negligence and accidents caused by the actions of careless businesses, doctors, and others.  To discuss your situation with an attorney, contact our office at (301) 441-2022 or online and make an appointment.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Jury Awards $44 Million for Death of Premature Infant in Medical Negligence Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 23, 2018

Failure to Follow the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act May Lead to Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Action, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published April 18, 2018