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$30 million verdict reinstated by Ohio judge

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Dec. 20, 2004

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An Ohio judge in November reinstated a $30 million medical malpractice verdict that another judge had thrown out in calling for a new trial. The award was believed to be the highest in the state's history.

Trial court judge Robert M. Lawther originally said the award in a birth injury case involving 17-year-old Walter Hollins was excessive and that the verdict was given "under the influence of passion and prejudice." He also said the plaintiff's attorney used theatrical tactics throughout the trial that helped him win "a clearly unjustified verdict."

In a three-page opinion issued Nov. 19, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Lillian J. Greene disagreed. She said a new trial was not warranted in the case because the jury -- picked by both sides -- heard the evidence and came to their conclusion.

"The mere fact that the court's opinion differs from that of the jury does not warrant setting aside a verdict," Greene wrote. "Substantial evidence was presented by the plaintiff to support the jury verdict as contrasted with little evidence to support an opposite verdict award."

Greene also said that plaintiff attorney Geoffrey Fieger did nothing egregious that would justify a new trial. "Counsel has great latitude in presenting a closing argument within permissible bounds," Greene said.

Mt. Sinai Medical Center, Ronald Jordan, MD, and Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services are appealing Greene's decision to the 8th Appellate District of the Ohio Court of Appeals.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/12/20/prbf1220.htm.

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