Failure of Court to Strike Juror For Cause Results in Reversal Of Health Care Liability Verdict

The Kentucky Supreme Court has reversed a verdict for the defendants in a medical malpractice (health care liability) case because the trial judge failed to grant a request of the patient’s lawyer to strike two jurors for cause.

The reversal was granted notwithstanding the fact that the lawyer for the plaintiff was able to challenge one of the jurors that should have been dismissed for cause with a peremptory challenge.  Why?  Because the plaintiff ran out of peremptory challenges and there were two other jurors that they would have removed had they had any other peremptory strikes remaining.

A majority of the court did not believe it was necessary to show any actual prejudice to the party.   Rather, the court determined that when a party is forced to use a peremptory challenge on a juror that should have been dismissed for cause by the trial court that harm has been done.

There were two jurors who should have been stricken for cause.  The first was a female patient of an expert witness for the defendants; the witness had delivered two of her children.  The second juror had a son who worked for the parent of the corporate defendant and expressed some concern about his ability to be impartial.

The case is Grubb v. Norton Hospitals, Inc., No. 2010 – SC – 000532-DG (Kentucky S. Ct. May 23, 2013).

Counsel are urged to read the dissent, which takes issue of the failure of counsel to more fully develop the challenge for cause.  

The law of jury selection is an important part of trial practice, and knowledge of the law can not only help secure a jury verdict but can also help reverse an adverse verdict if the proper record is made.  

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