(CN) – Citing the unpredictable nature of each juror’s conscience, the New York Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a woman’s medical malpractice case against a hospital.
Eleanor Duffy sued Dr. James Vogel for allegedly failing to treat a tumor in her pelvis.
The jury delivered a seemingly contradictory verdict that cleared the doctor of wrongdoing, while at the same time awarding Duffy $1.5 million.
Duffy’s request for a jury poll was denied, which led to even more confusion. Duffy moved for the verdict to be set aside due to the denial of the jury poll. The trial court admitted the mistake and granted a mistrial.
Vogel appealed, and appellate division agreed with him that the denial of the jury poll was a harmless error, since there is no evidence that an individual poll of the jury would have yielded a different result.
Judge Lippman reversed the decision, ruling that the individual conscience of each juror carries more weight than the verdict announced at the end of a trial.
“The relevant question,” Lippman wrote, “is whether each juror … would, upon reflection, publicly affirm that the verdict agreed to in the jury room was the one he or she actually intended. The exercise of individual conscience involved is one whose outcome defies prediction.”
Lippman reversed the appellate division’s decision and ordered a new trial.