“Jury clears doctors of negligence in Ritter’s death”

“A Glendale jury on Friday cleared an emergency room doctor of negligence and liability in John Ritter’s death, holding he did everything he could to save the comic actor. … Jurors, who voted 9 to 3 against liability for Lee and Lotysch, said they were torn between sympathy for Ritter’s wife and children and their conviction that the doctors were blameless.” (John Spano, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 15). Earlier here and here (noting that Ritter family had already obtained $14 million in settlements from other defendants).

7 Comments

  • Jurors, who voted 9 to 3 against liability for Lee and Lotysch, said they were torn between sympathy for Ritter’s wife and children and their conviction that the doctors were blameless.

    It would be nice if for once the trial judge instructed the jurors that sympathy for the next of kin is not one of the criteria that they are supposed to use for deciding the lawsuit.

    Ultimately, Ritter’s acts or omissions had no more relevance than the celebrity aura around the trial, he said.

    What a heartless jury!

    “So many people have reported to me that they go into an emergency room with chest pains and say, ‘I’m not going out of here until you check me for that John Ritter thing.’ It has saved their lives,” Yasbeck said. “It’s in the front of their minds now.”

    Apparently Amy Yasbeck knows a lot of people who are suffering from innumeracy. Ritter was suffering from a rare aortic dissection. The key word here is rare. If doctors spend all of their time routinely testing for rare conditions the cost of medicine would skyrocket and it would not save lives. You save lives by testing for high risk conditions.

  • It is always heartwarming when a jury gets it right. Still there were 3 people who saw something that wasn’t there. And if there was nothing there, what was the basis for the $14 million dollar settlement?

  • “Jurors, who voted 9 to 3 against liability for Lee and Lotysch, said they were torn between sympathy for Ritter’s wife and children and their conviction that the doctors were blameless.”

    Nice that justice snuck through, but the innocence of the doctors had to compete with illegal considerations, unregulated by a par for the course incompetent judge and a deceitful plaintiff’s lawyer. This case exemplifies the need for Health Courts in a nutshell. Justice is frequently absent in the current corrupt, ultra-lucrative trial lawyer industry.

    Reference of interest: Harvard School of Public Health professors Michelle Mello and David Studdert and CG Colorado President Edward Dauer article on health courts: “Policy Experimentation with Administrative Compensation for Medical Injury.”

    http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/faculty/michelle-mello/files/45_Harv_J_on_Legis_59-106.pdf

  • Dear Lord – if they were so torn from sympathy, heaven wonders how they would have voted if Ritter’s family wasn’t already wealthy to start with, and hadn’t already received an extra $14 million in settlements!

  • In every P.I. case I have ever tried, there has been an instruction (pattern) stating that “sympathy for the plaintiff must not account for a finding of liability… afinding of liability must be based solely upon a finding of a duty, a breadch othat duty and causation.”

    So, Richard Nieporent, I have a hard time believing that the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to that effect.

  • Jay, I guess the jurors must have been asleep when the judge gave his instructions to the jury because by their comments that seem to be totally ignorant of that fact. If the judge really does want the case to be decided on the facts I would suggest that a much stronger statement be made to the jury than the one you indicated.

  • […] suits, let’s not forget the noneconomic costs.  “In the [John] Ritter case (Mar. 15, Mar. 22, Feb. 5, Sep. 2004), the jury agreed with the defendant physicians and exonerated them of […]