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Technicality Splits NY Appeals Court in Right to New Negligence Trial


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8/24/2011
Jonathan Cooper
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I really, really dislike it when courts elevate form over substance, particularly when it means that a case that should be resolved gets new lease on life, and the outcome is highly unlikely to be any different the next time around.

Yet, that is precisely what may be occurring in Holstein v. Community Gen. Hosp. of Greater Syracuse. In this case, which arises out of medical negligence, the defendant lost at trial, and now seeks another bite at the proverbial apple because in response to his attorney's request that the jury be polled, i.e., asked individually whether they agreed with the overall verdict (which in this case was unanimous), the Court stated "Jury be polled, they have signed. They each have individually signed." The defendant's attorney responded, "Okay. All right. Thank you."

Although a majority of the appeals court (rightly, in my view) rejected this argument, two justices felt that an entirely new trial was warranted under these circumstances, holding that the right to poll the jury is essentially sacrosanct, and that the defendant's attorney's equivocal statement should not be construed as a waiver of that right.

But isn't it more than a bit absurd that everyone should have to go through an entire second trial when we know with certainty how that first jury held?


Category: General

Jonathan Cooper
Employment Litigation and School Negligence Lawyer

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