The Supreme Court of Idaho recently released an opinion that affirmed a jury’s award of nearly $4 million to a plaintiff, based upon allegations that his wife’s death was caused by a liposuction procedure that was negligently performed by the defendant. The defendant had appealed the verdict, based in part on allegations that the trial judge improperly commented on the plaintiff’s evidence at trial, which illegitimately influenced the jury’s decision. As a result of the appellate court’s rejection of the defendant’s arguments made on appeal, the defendant will be required to pay the entire judgment awarded to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff in the case of Ballard v. Kerr was a man whose wife passed away after allegedly contracting an infection during a liposuction procedure that was performed by the defendant. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the defendant failed to properly disinfect and sterilize certain medical equipment that was used in the procedure, introducing bacteria into her body and causing the infection, which ultimately resulted in her death by septic shock approximately four days after the surgery.
The Jury Finds the Defendant’s Negligence Was the Proximate Cause of the Woman’s Death
After a two-week trial on the plaintiff’s wrongful death claim, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him $3.8 million in economic and non-economic damages. The jury additionally reached the conclusion that the defendant was more than simply negligent and acted recklessly in causing the woman’s death, which resulted in additional damages being awarded to the plaintiff.
The Defendant Claims that the Trial Judge Improperly Commented on the Evidence
The defendant appealed the jury verdict to the Idaho Supreme Court, alleging that several errors were made at trial that warranted the verdict’s reversal. One of the defendant’s allegations was that the judge who presided over the trial made improper comments on the evidence presented by the plaintiff, essentially encouraging the jury to reach their conclusion in an inappropriate manner. The appellate court noted that a trial judge may not improperly comment on the evidence presented at trial or suggest a verdict to the jury, but it rejected the defendant’s claim on appeal because no objection was made to any of the judge’s statements at trial. Since the defendant’s attorney failed to object to the judge’s allegedly improper comments on the evidence at trial, the appellate court was unable to address the statements on appeal and ultimately affirmed the jury’s verdict.
A Failure by an Attorney to State an Objection or Otherwise Preserve Issues May Prevent Correction on Appeal
New Mexico medical malpractice cases can be extremely complex, and trial judges routinely make mistakes of law that may unfairly prejudice a plaintiff or defendant during a trial. The purpose of appellate review is to allow judges who are more experienced in the proper application of the laws to correct errors made by a trial judge and ultimately reach a final result in line with the correct and uniform application of New Mexico law.
In New Mexico medical malpractice and personal injury cases, an appellate court is unable to reverse an error made by the trial court unless the attorney for the party prejudiced by the error makes an objection during the trial to preserve the issue for appeal. With very few exceptions, even the most obvious and outright prejudicial legal errors cannot be fixed by an appellate court if the attorney below failed to preserve the issue. Although this preservation requirement may result in outcomes that seem unfair, the rule is a necessary and well-understood part of our legal system.
An Experienced Trial Attorney Can Make or Break a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
For victims of medical malpractice and their families, choosing an experienced attorney to represent them is extremely important in seeking the compensation that they deserve. The experienced New Mexico trial attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have the knowledge and skill that is required to ensure our clients receive a fair chance to be compensated for their loss. Our qualified New Mexico injury attorneys are intimately familiar with state and federal laws that apply to negligence claims, and we know the proper procedures to follow to ensure your rights are preserved if an appeal becomes necessary. Call the New Mexico medical malpractice attorneys at the Fine Law Firm at (585) 989-3463 or sign up using our online contact form and schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Determines Car Accident Involving Medical Professional Is Not a “Medical Malpractice” Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, September 6, 2016.
State Supreme Court Finds Plaintiff Is Not Entitled to Relief Due to Recreational Use Statute, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, August 4, 2016.