The automatic exclusion of juries from medical malpractice trials because the cases are “too complicated” was challenged and overturned in this case. The Court determined that in some medical malpractice cases, depending on the facts and the evidence involved, a jury may even be the best way that justice can be served.
A trial judge had reluctantly excluded a jury from a case involving a patient who had an aortobifemoral bypass. This occurs where blood is redirected through a graft in order to avoid larger vessels that are blocked, which can harm the body if left untreated. The judge was following a long-established legal rule that said that the evidence was too complex for juries to follow. This particular patient had developed a limp as well as pains in his stomach. The hospital determined that this was due to aortoiliac occlusive disease with femoral occlusions, meaning that an artery blockage in his torso was causing blockages in his leg. During the surgery, the plaintiff’s left peroneal nerve near his knee was damaged.
At trial, the jury did in fact need to be taught some substantive medicine in order to determine liability and causation. However, the appeal judge ruled that this was not necessarily a good reason to deprive a plaintiff of the important substantive right to a jury, a right which should not be taken away lightly. The trial judge is in the best position to determine if a case is appropriate for a jury.
Sommers Roth & Elmaleh Professional Corporation has over 40 years of experience in medical malpractice litigation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario, and across Canada.
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