In a recent opinion, the California Court of Appeal addressed a case involving medical malpractice and the plaintiff’s allegations that she was prejudiced by the trial court’s instruction on comparative negligence. The appellate court stated that the test for reversing a judgment on appeal is whether the error caused a miscarriage of justice. Here, the court looked at the jury’s unanimous decision concerning the defendant’s alleged negligence, and it affirmed the lower court’s judgment.
Debra Groves filed a lawsuit against Hakob G. Davtyan, M.D. and other defendants, alleging negligence and other causes of action stemming from her February 16, 2010 surgery and subsequent care. The defendants other than Dr. Davtyan settled or were dismissed from the case.
At trial, the jury was instructed on Ms. Groves’ claim against Dr. Davtyan for medical negligence, The court also instructed the jury about a modified version of comparative negligence and apportionment of responsibility. They were informed certain individuals were no longer parties to the case and then asked, in another instruction, to apportion responsibility if people other than Dr. Davtyan were also negligent. In returning their special verdict in favor of Dr. Davtyan, the jury answered that Dr. Davtyan was not negligent in his care and treatment of Ms. Groves. They were instructed not to answer Question 3 (comparative negligence), since they answered “no” to Question No. 2.