Robert Lapping of this office was 6 weeks into a multiple defendant medical malpractice trial in Suffolk County when the Courts abruptly closed on March 16, 2020. All parties agreed to suspend rather than declare a mistrial. Mr. Lapping kept asking the Court when the trial could resume after the Court closure. Office of Court Administration finally approved resumption of the trial, using the biggest Courtroom and abundant social-distancing precautions, and the trial resumed on July 27. Nine out of 10 jurors returned to finish the case. Two days of testimony, two days of summations and two days of deliberations resulted in a unanimous defense verdict on August 3.
The case involved claims of brain damage to an infant as a result of an arachnoid cyst against a radiologist and 4 pediatricians. This office represented the pediatricians. The defenses presented were, in equal measure, appropriate care by the doctors and that the child’s problems are all caused by congenital autism, not by the cyst. If the case had been lost, the plaintiff had asked for more than $25 million in damages. The demand at the start of the trial was $10 million. There was no offer on the part of our clients.
During the 4 ½ month hiatus, many observers had commented that a jury willing to return after such a long wait, and under such novel circumstances, must be favoring the plaintiff. Mr. Lapping correctly predicted that the jury was a typical, dedicated Suffolk County jury and that the defense was considerably ahead when the trial was suspended in March.
This case was closely watched by Court Administration officials as a test of whether jury trials can be conducted safely. The success of bringing the case to a conclusion, with no one sickened during or after the process, is a big step in the direction of resuming jury trials for resolution of matters that should not settle. Many in the judiciary said it could not be done. We have proven that it can.
The physicians whom we represented had been in the Courtroom more than half of the 6 weeks in February and March, and were present every day for the finish. They were extremely happy with the result, and equally happy that they were saved from the necessity of a mistrial and retrial.
For more details, call Mr. Lapping directly