Trials & Litigation

Jurors Read Newspaper in Jury Room; Judge Voids Verdict

Jurors in a medical malpractice case against a prominent Washington state physician accused of abusing his minor patients weren’t told at trial about an important issue concerning the plaintiffs’ damages. If they determined that he had communicated with minors for immoral purposes, the plaintiffs could get attorney fees.

But they apparently found this out anyway, by listening to media coverage and reading the newspaper. Admonished not to look at media coverage of the high-profile case, one juror even read a newspaper article to her fellow panelists during deliberations, reports the Seattle Times.

As a result of this and other claimed juror misconduct, as well as an improper closing argument by a defense lawyer for Dr. Bill Schnall, the King Country trial judge in the case has reversed the $630,000 verdict, the newspaper reports.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs apparently welcomed this result, which will allow a possible award of some $1.8 million in attorney fees and costs if another jury finds in favor of the plaintiffs—and determines that Schnall communicated with minors for immoral purposes, the Times explains. The $630,000 award was for medical malpractice and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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