“No good deed goes unpunished” is an aphorism attributed to more than one origin -Oscar Wilde and Clare Booth Luce. The origin may be a mystery. Its meaning to an Iowa anesthesiologist is not.
An obstetrician performed a C-section on a patient who was 35 weeks pregnant. The patient had persistent vaginal bleeding, so the following day the obstetrician performed a complete hysterectomy. During that case, the anesthesiologist placed an IV which infiltrated. Later that day, the patient underwent a third surgery to “relieve pressure in her arm and hand” – presumably a fasciotomy. Six days later, a fourth surgery was performed – to close the wound.
The patient sued both the obstetrician and anesthesiologist. Each doctor was represented by separate counsel. They were sued based on different claims. There was no corporate relationship between the two. You get the picture. It was like two separate malpractice cases being tried by a single jury.
During the obstetrician’s testimony, a juror fainted in the jury box. The anesthesiologist leaped up from the galley and rendered aid. The juror recovered and was dismissed. The judge interviewed each remaining juror to make sure they could remain fair, neutral, and impartial. Each replied they could. Plaintiff’s motion for a mistrial was denied.
The jury later delivered its verdict. No liability for either the obstetrician or the anesthesiologist.
The patient appealed this verdict arguing that warm feelings generated toward the anesthesiologist by helping the fainting juror prejudiced both physicians’ collective case. The Iowa Court of Appeals remanded the case for a new trial for both the obstetrician and anesthesiologist. Ouch.
But wait, it gets worse. If you’re the anesthesiologist.
This case was appealed yet again to the Iowa Supreme Court. It held that while the anesthesiologist helped the stricken juror, the obstetrician did not. So, it was OK to deny the motion for mistrial against the obstetrician. Why? The obstetrician had done nothing to generate “warm feelings” from the jury. He sat on the sidelines. And the claims against the obstetrician were entirely separate from the claims against the anesthesiologist. The obstetrician’s case was over. He won.
The anesthesiologist was not so lucky.
When he helped the juror, this potentially prejudiced the case against the patient (plaintiff). Mistrial was declared. He now gets a chance to defend his case one more time. Double ouch.
If another juror faints in the jury box, what will the anesthesiologist do next time? Any guesses?
Jack v. Booth, 2015 WL 292051 (Iowa, January 23, 2015)