Monday, August 10, 2015

Judge Minora of Lackawanna County Rules on Jury Selection Issues.

In his recent decision on post-trial motions in the medical malpractice case of Carlitz v. Delta Medix, No. 2011-CV-1458 (C.P. Lacka. Co. July 15, 2015, Minora, J.), Judge Carmen D. Minora of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas addressed, in part, the issue of whether the court should have stricken prospective jurors for cause based upon their situation on financial relationships with a Defendant medical provider and a Defendant doctor.

The court noted that, in support of their challenge for cause during jury selection, Plaintiff cited to the case of Cordes v. Associates of Internal Medicine, 87 A.3d 829, appeal denied, 102 A.3d 986 (Pa. 2014). The Plaintiffs otherwise objected to the fact that they were required to use their peremptory challenges on certain perspective jurors who had treated with a Defendant medical provider and/or the Defendant's expert witness doctor, or who had been employed by one of the Defendants. According to the opinion, overall, the Plaintiffs had objections to at least four (4) of the jurors who were empaneled.

Judge Carmen D. Minora
Lackawanna County
Judge Minora reviewed the law pertaining to the granting or denying of challenges to a prospective juror and applied that law to the case before him.

Although the court found that it need not rule on this jury issue because it already determined that the Plaintiffs were entitled to a new trial based upon other statements made by defense counsel during the course of the trial, Judge Minora nevertheless concluded that the Plaintiffs’ contention that certain prospective jurors should have been removed for cause is without merit (raising a question as to whether this portion of the decision amounts to dicta -- the decision is instructive in any event). Rather, the court believed that the Plaintiffs attempted to use cause challenges where peremptory challenges were required.

Judge Minora also emphasized that, at issue in this matter, where alleged relationships between the jurors and professional corporation Defendants as opposed to party Defendant positions, as was the case in the Cordes matter. Overall, Judge Minora stated that there was no case law holding that a situation or relationship warranting removal for cause arises from the fact that a prospective juror, or his or her relative, is a patient of a professional corporation Defendant or a non-party expert witness, or is employed by a non-party expert witness or his practice group.

Judge Minora did indicate that if the prospective jurors were indeed employees of a corporate Defendant or patients of a Defendant’s position, the court would have found merit in the Plaintiffs’ argument. However, those facts are not before the court. As such, the court found that there was no error of any kind during the jury selection process.

Judge Minora ended his opinion by stating that "All parties are entitled to a fair, objective and impartial jury of their peers, but not to a jury of their choosing." [citations omitted].

A copy of Judge Minora's Opinion, which includes his analysis in support of a granting of a new trial on other grounds, can be viewed HERE.

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