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Verdict in Failure to Diagnose Cervical Cord Compression Case Affirmed

An appellate court in Florida affirmed a defense verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Plaintiff alleged that the doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose and treat the decedent’s cervical cord compression, a condition which eventually caused the man to suffer from quadriplegia.

Plaintiff made four arguments on appeal. The one I found interesting was the idea that the doctor’s lawyer made an “impermissible burden-shifting argument” on the issue of the doctor’s negligence when he argued that the plaintiff failed to present testimony from any neurosurgeon that he would have done anything different in treating the patient. Florida law is clear that a plaintiff is not required to prove that the subsequent treating physician would have acted differently in order to prevail at trial.

Certainly, under Maryland and Florida law, lawyers may not in opening or closing statements make comments that mislead the jury as to the appropriate burden of proof. But the court disagrees (as do I) that this is what the doctor’s lawyer was doing in his closing statement.

What I absolutely cannot stand is when defense lawyers answering interrogatories in a malpractice case object by saying the question “impermissibly shifts the burden of proof.” No it doesn’t. I’m just asking what you think happened. Burden of proof is for the jury at trial, not during discovery. It is beyond obnoxious.