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Pennsylvania Superior Court recently overruled a Philadelphia judge and held that it was improper to allow a case to proceed with only 8 jurors. The right to a trial by jury is one of the most fundamental rights of our legal system. The requirement to have 12 members on a jury is important for several reasons. First, in Pennsylvania civil trials, a verdict must be rendered by the agreement of 5 out of every 6 jurors. That means that when there are 12 jurors, it only takes the agreement of 10 jurors to reach a verdict. When only 8 jurors deliberate, it requires 7 of them to agree, which is a higher percentage. Consequently, it is generally to a plaintiff’s advantage to have 12 jurors. Second, a larger jury allows for a broader cross-section of people and helps to render a more fair and balanced verdict.

In the case of Gianni v. Phillips, at a pre-trial conference, a Philadelphia county judge asked if the parties would agree to allowing the case to proceed with only 8 jurors. Although the defendants agreed to having only 8 jurors, the plaintiff objected. Nevertheless, the Judge ordered that the case proceed to trial with only 8 jurors and a verdict was eventually rendered for the defendants. The plaintiff then appealed the ruling to Pennsylvania Superior Court, which held that permitting the case to proceed with only 8 jurors over the objection of any party was reversible legal error. Consequently, the case has been sent back to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Please for a new trial.

This case evidences how trial attorneys must fight for the rights of their clients even after a verdict is rendered. As an experienced trial attorney, I will vigoously represent you in your case. Although no one can ever guarantee a specific outcome and even judges commit error, without an experienced and capable attornely, a client can easily be overwhelmed by the judicial system. I work to protect all the rights of plaintiffs and to ensure that they recover everything to which they are entitled.

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In New Jersey, as in many states including Pennsylvania, medical experts in medical malpractice cases must be qualified in a defendant doctor’s area of medicine to give an opinion that the doctor deviated from the standard of care. In a case involving thoracic cord compression, necrotic disc injury, permanent nerve damage and diabetic neuropathy, an appeals court in New Jersey held that a Neurologist was qualified to offer an expert opinion against an internal medicine physician, a physiatrist (rehabilitation physician), an emergency room doctor and an orthopedic surgean concerning treatment of these spinal cord and nerve disorders. Bull et al. v. Zeidman et al., 2007 WL 1008887 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div.).

As in Pennsylvania, the court concluded that the Neurologist’s credibility was to be decided by the jury, which could weigh his testimony, education and experience. Although the Neurologist was not board-certified in any of the defendant physicians’ specialties, because he had 25 years of experience as a Neurologist and had experience treating patients with the plaintiff’s spinal cord and nerve disorders, he was qualified to offer his opinion to the jury.

In Pennsylvania, although the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (“MCARE Act”) does generally require same specialty match in order for a medical expert to be qualified to offer standard of care opinions, there are some exceptions. For example, orthopedic surgeons have been found qualified to offer standard of care opinions against defendant podiatrists. This is contrasted with Delaware, which now requires strict specialty matching as a minimun qualification for medical experts.