Medical Malpractice Jurors Preferred a Higher Standard of Proof
An Indiana medical malpractice complaint was filed in state court in January 2016 after a Medical Review Panel decided the defendant met the standard of care in treating the plaintiff. The case proceeded to a nine day jury trial in September 2018.
The potential jurors took an oath during jury selection, as required by Ind. Jury Rule 13, to honestly answer each question asked by the court or counsel. Many potential jurors did not feel that “51-49” would be enough to find in favor of the plaintiff. The trial judge instructed the jurors on the burden of proof.
Based on the answers each potential juror gave regarding the burden of proof, the plaintiff’s counsel challenged for cause nine of the initial fourteen prospective jurors. Each of the nine challenged jurors were then asked whether they would be able to put aside their personal beliefs and follow the court’s burden of proof instructions. Six answered in the affirmative so the trial court denied the plaintiff’s for-cause challenges to those prospective jurors and granted the plaintiff’s request to strike the remaining three for cause.
The jury subsequently found in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.
“....For-cause challenges...are available to exclude any prospective juror whose “views would ‘prevent or substantially impair the performance of his duties as a juror in accordance with his instructions and his oath.”...There are no limits on the number of for-cause challenges, but each must be supported by specific reasons that demonstrate that, as a matter of law, the venire member is not qualified to serve”…The trial court devoted a generous amount of time to jury selection in order to make sure each person, including those challenged for cause, was competent to sit on the jury. We find no abuse of the court’s substantial discretion and conclude that the trial court did not act illogically or arbitrarily when it denied the six for-cause challenges at issue,” the Indiana Appellate Court stated.
The Court of Appeals of Indiana opinion filed on August 7, 2019 stated, "Based on the record before us, we find that the trial court did not act illogically or arbitrarily when it denied for-cause challenges to the five individuals who initially indicated they would want or prefer to see a higher burden of proof than the required "greater weight of the evidence" standard applicable in medical malpractice cases.”