Earlier this month, one state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that required the court to determine whether the single doctor named as a defendant should be able to introduce evidence that there had originally been several other doctors named as defendants, but they had all settled with the plaintiff before the case reached trial. Ultimately, the court determined that the contested evidence was relevant to the case and should have been admitted.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who died while he was being treated by the defendant doctor after he slipped and fell while playing racquetball. The defendant was one of several doctors who treated the plaintiffs’ loved one, and each of the other treating physicians had originally been named in the lawsuit. However, the plaintiffs agreed to settle the cases against the other physicians out of court and proceed to trial against only the defendant.
In a pre-trial motion, the plaintiffs asked the court to prevent the defendant from explaining to the jury that there were originally several other doctors named in the lawsuit, but they had reached settlements with the plaintiffs. Additionally, the plaintiffs asked the court to prevent the defendant from arguing that the subsequent acts of these other non-present doctors acted as an intervening cause of their loved one’s death. The trial court denied both of the plaintiffs’ motions, and the case proceeded to trial. The jury found in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiffs appealed.