Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Verdict: A Surprise Ending

"Finally!" I hear you mumbling under your collective breaths. I know you're anxious for me to stop writing about all this trial business and get back to the more important things I usually post about, like hats that don't mess up hair, the cost of toothbrushes, and the embarrassment of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." Well, never fear. I'm about to reveal the verdict and the funny twist that happened after the jury submitted its decision.

I wrote about the first day's deliberation a few posts back, so I won't go back over that stuff. To be honest, I had a hard time sleeping that night. The decisions were weighing heavy on the old brain, and I dreaded going back into the deliberation room. But I did.

We had to resume where we left off - stuck on the question about whether or not the cardiologist conformed with accepted medical practice in his examination and clearance of the plaintiff for surgery. Two of us felt the evidence - testimony of plaintiff and defendant, as well as the handwritten exam notes - showed that he did depart from the norm, given plaintiff's medical history and symptoms. Four disagreed. But we had to have a consensus of at least five. In the end, and to move on, one of the two joined the four, though she didn't really agree with them.

We moved through the 17-page questionnaire quicker after that. We did think that the phone call to the on-call cardiologist had been made - phone records or no phone records - and found for the plaintiff on that one. But as far as the whole Pepcid AC business, well, we couldn't find against the on-call cardiologist since we didn't really know what was said.

That's the way it went for the rest of the questions. We didn't find negligence on the part of the defendant or the plaintiff. We thought the truth was somewhere in between, but the plaintiff just didn't present enough real evidence to prove his case.

After adding up the answers and decisions, we awarded nothing to the plaintiff. We felt bad because, again, we felt there was some truth to the fact that no one took his arm/shoulder pain seriously and it may have been a warning sign that his arteries were closing again. But we just didn't have enough evidence. The cardiologist was an arrogant asshole, but you can't convict somebody for that (though I think we should change the law to be able to do so). We sent our verdict to the judge and waited to go into the courtroom.

We all dreaded going back in and reading the verdict. We did not want to face the nice plaintiff and his family - they didn't seem to be the litigious type of folks, and we felt bad for them. After about 10 minutes, the judge called us to the courtroom and we filed in and sat down.

OK. Here's the kicker.

"Thank you for your time and attention," says the judge. "I have not shown your verdict to the lawyers, because while you were completing your deliberations, the plaintiff and defendants came to a settlement, the amount of which I cannot disclose to you. Thank you again for your service. You are dismissed."

Well, we all started laughing and shaking our heads. After all the tense moments during the trial and in the deliberation room (it got heated at times), to think the parties reached a settlement! To tell the truth, we were all relieved that, yes, the plaintiff would get a little out of this, even though we weren't able to find in his favor.

We went back to the jury room to collect our belongings. While we were doing so, all three lawyers came in to ask how we'd decided. Only the cardiologist had settled (not defendant NYU hospital), so he must've felt it wouldn't go his way. The plaintiff's lawyer and the NYU lawyer stuck around (the cardiologist's lawyer slinked out) and talked to us a long time, wanting to know which witnesses worked, etc. And we asked about the phone records and such.

As I headed for the elevator, the plaintiff's family was getting ready to leave. They thanked me, I shook the plaintiff's hand, and I told him to take care of himself. The end.

I was glad for the way everything turned out. And it was good to have the jury experience, even though it put me 'way behind at work. Now I'm off the jury pool list for six years. All's well that ends well, I reckon.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm thinking we should start casting this immediately!!

Let's see: The Judge - Not to type cast too much but you could go with Ellen DeGeneres or Rosie O'Donell. The cardologist maybe Hugh Laurie just for his surly nature. One of the lawyers could be Barry Scheck, "DIDN'T YOU MR. FONG?" Now for the poor plantiff, since we are the same age I thought I might get this part. Or James Garner. Last but not least, Juror #3: maybe Angelina Jolie for the looks but for the real actress I would go with Kathy Bates.

Great story! I know you are glad it's over. I'm sure the state of New York appreciates having such a brilliant and thoughtful Southern girl serving as Juror #3.

jomoore said...

Fascinating - and a brilliant 'summing up'! :o)

I dread the thought of being on a jury, since I tend to believe whatever anyone tells me and agree with the last person to speak.

Presumably lots of civil cases end this way, with everyone playing 'chicken' and someone settling at the very last minute...

I'm glad you're free at last, Mary.

MaryB said...

Bro - pretty good casting, there. I'd opt for Ellen DeGeneres for the judge. NOT Laurie for cardiologist - need someone more arrogant than surly. Plaintiff was a nice little Jewish guy, so neither you nor Garner (be still my heart!) will work. Definitely, Kathy Bates for me!

Jo - yeah, that was my struggle. Trying to stay open-minded with each round of witnesses. And I don't like hurting folks' feelings, so I was dreading having to announce our verdict. Glad it turned out the way it did!

Anonymous said...

I got it... Jeremy Irons for the cardiologist and Billy Crystal for the plantiff. Since I can't have the part, I'll direct... I can be bossy, remember? ... grin ...

Anonymous said...

I'm really glad it turned out like it did too Mary. I just hate hurting people's feelings too. I've never had to be on a jury yet...and I really dread the day when it may happen. I've been called, but never had to really sit on a jury yet. This was a nice wrap up post...thanks Mary. Good Luck catching up at work. ~Joy

Liz said...

What a great telling of the stories - the plaintiff's and yours. I'm so glad the man got some money in the end: I felt for him. But glad also that the jury reached a carefully-thought-out decision.

I'm with Jo on the 'swing this way then that' fear. I'd never be able to come to a decision1