SW Legal studies in Business

Trial Judge May Use Discretion to Order New Trial
Description

Ohio high court held that trial judges have the authority to use their discretion, given the totality of a trial, to order a verdict stricken in favor of a new trial. If the judge finds sufficient abuse in the trial process that likely tainted the verdict, a new trial is proper.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

New Trial; Misconduct

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Seventeen years after Hollins was born, his guardian sued the hospital where he was born and the physicians for malpractice for improper delivery at birth that, it was claimed, was the reason for his mental retardation and physical problems. The hospital defended that the problems stemmed from the physical condition of his mother. The jury awarded $15 million in economic damages and $15 million in non-economic damages. The judge granted defendants’ motion for a new trial. The appeals court reversed; defendants appealed.

Decision

Reversed. The trial judge had sufficient reason to order a new trial. When there is room for doubt whether the verdict was properly based on the evidence, or there is evidence that the verdict may have been influenced by improper remarks of counsel, then the losing party has the right to insist on a new trial. Improper evidence was presented by the plaintiff about the cost of care of Hollis. The plaintiff’s attorney constantly interrupted opposing counsel improperly and ignored instructions from the judge to stop such behavior. The attorney confused medical facts even when they were properly presented. Closing argument injected improper race and economic status into the case, emphasizing that Hollis was a poor, black child, while the health providers were powerful and rich corporations and doctors. That was sufficient reason for the trial judge to order a new trial.

Citation

Harris v. Mt. Sinai Medical Center, 876 N.E.2d 1201 (Sup. Ct., Ohio, 2007)

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