A Writer's Journey

June 6, 2016

Jury Duty

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , , ,

I was on on jury duty for most of May. I was called to report on April 29th, empaneled and unfortunately, I was chosen to be an alternate juror. It was a civil case regarding medical malpractice. The plaintiff and his wife sued his orthopedic surgeon and an infectious disease doctor, claiming they were negligent in their treatment of him post-knee replacement and that they failed to diagnose a knee infection in a timely manner.

After I was chosen, I knew they wouldn’t settle. This was five years in the making and things were pretty tense between the lawyers. They had to go outside twice during voir dire and one of those times ended up with a trip to the judge. And one of the doctors being sued was present for jury selection. This all screamed “Not going to settle” to me.

On the first Monday of May, I reported back to the courthouse and we were brought up to our jury deliberation room. The judge’s clerk came and spoke with us, getting our phone numbers and giving us his—just in case. He explained some things to us and then we were brought into the courtroom. The judge gave us our instructions for the trial and then the lawyers began with their opening statements.

The plaintiff had a partial knee replacement done by one of the defendants, an orthopedic surgeon. He had no complaints about the procedure and that was not what his lawsuit was about. It’s everything after he had a problem with, when he returned to the hospital with an infection at his IV site. He claimed that his knee was also infected and they failed to diagnose it. He then contended that the doctors failed to do so on multiple occasions after that as well.

So I had a lot of medical jargon thrown at me for most of May. Effusion, aspiration, hematoma, cellulitis, staph, several types of antibiotics…my head was spinning! And on top of that, we had to keep several different admissions to the hospital in order as well as several office visits. Even the judge got confused sometimes.

The plaintiff’s lawyer hung most of his case on two specific doctors: the attending doctor who first saw the plaintiff in the ER and a radiologist. Especially that radiologist. She thought there was a troubling difference from his X-Rays taken after his surgery and the ones taken when he was readmitted to the hospital. So she recommended an aspiration of the knee, which is when they stick a needle in and pull out fluid that might be there. That fluid could then be tested and infection could be diagnosed, if there is one. But it wasn’t done during that first admission.

But other doctors argued it was not her place to make such a suggestion. They also said that orthopedic surgeons are trained to read X-Rays and are better trained to recognize what a knee should look like five days after surgery. Everyone who actually saw and examined the knee believed it was not infected. According to their training, it looked like a normal post-operative knee. So they were focused on his arm, which had an infection. They treated it and released him, never following the radiologist’s recommendation.

At one point, the lawyer was really going on and on about how the doctors never noted the radiologist’s recommendation in their notes in the medical chart. He argued that it meant the doctor never considered it and was wrong to do that. All I could think was that it wasn’t a math test—he didn’t have to show his work.

It just got so tedious and annoying, to be honest. We heard several terms and concepts over and over. Some of it got pretty boring. In fact, the juror next to me kept falling asleep. There were a couple times I had to wake her because she was snoring too loudly.

You know what wasn’t boring? Our time in the jury room. We worried that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about since we couldn’t discuss the trial. But we were very, very wrong. We found a lot to talk about that wasn’t about the trial and got along pretty well. So well, in fact, we’re going to have a barbecue at the end of the month. This time, we’ll actually be able to really discuss the case. It should be fun!

It also got me thinking. How cool would a show be about people on jury duty? A sitcom where we just follow people in the jury deliberation room, trying to talk about everything but the trial. It could be an anthology like American Horror Story, with a small amount of episodes. Each season would follow a new jury. I think it would be interesting.

Ahh, well. In case you were wondering, we found the doctors not liable. We felt the plaintiff was trying to connect two separate cases and that he just was dealt a bad hand that time.

Summer Writing Challenge Update (June 1-June 5)

To date: 1153

Target: 2750

Under/over: 1597

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