The Ohio Supreme Court threw out a record $30 million verdict won by a brain-damaged man, citing his Detroit-area attorney for inappropriate theatrics in court.
The verdict, the state’s largest medical malpractice award, was influenced by Geoffrey Fieger’s behavior, Justice Terrance O’Donnell wrote in the court’s 6-1 opinion Thursday.
In his closing argument to the jury, Fieger assumed client Walter Hollins’ character in his mother’s womb, his brain deprived of oxygen as he waited to be delivered.
“Doctors, nurses, I’m suffocating. Please help me to be born,” Fieger told the jury. “I want to play baseball. I want to hug my mother. I want to tell her that I love her. Help me.”
Hollins, 20, of Cleveland, will have to file another lawsuit to seek compensation for his injuries.
A jury ruled in May 2004 that the now-defunct Mount Sinai Medical Center and a doctor had been negligent in delaying Hollins’ delivery while his mother, Regina Harris, waited two hours for an emergency Caesarean section.
Hollins was born with cerebral palsy. He cannot use his arms or legs and has the mental capabilities of a 1-year-old.
The justices also criticized Fieger for discourtesy, accusing witnesses of lying, and for his frequent interruptions of opposing lawyers. They cited Fieger for misstating evidence, wrongfully accusing defendants of covering up evidence and inappropriately injecting race and poverty into the trial.
“Fieger’s antics were good for TV, but that’s not what the courtroom is about,” said attorney Joe Farchione, who represented the late Dr. Ronald Jordan, who was named in the lawsuit. “The circus that he put on diverted everyone’s attention from the goal of finding justice and truth at trial.”
A message seeking comment from Fieger, of Southfield, Mich., was left Friday by The Associated Press. His co-counsel, Jack Beam of Chicago, accused the Republican-dominated Supreme Court of delivering a politically tainted verdict as a payoff to the medical and insurance industries.
“Sitting in his wheelchair, Walter Hollins has waited nine years for the justice that the Cuyahoga County jury rendered in his favor,” Beam said in a statement. “Everyone who believes in the right to trial by jury should be outraged at this travesty of justice.”
Received Id 1125446884 on Oct 26 2007 20:04
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