Attorney Wants Mistrial In Malpractice Case

June 30, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Attorneys for the parents of a baby who died at Carroll County General Hospital are asking that a mistrial be declared because one of thejurors appeared too friendly toward the doctor who was being sued.

Baltimore attorney LaVonna L. Vice filed the motion in Carroll District Court June 17 asking that Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold grant a new trial in the case.

Attorneys for Westminster pediatrician Dr. Karl Green and CarrollCounty General are expected to file their responses to the motion within the next two weeks.

A Carroll jury ruled June 6 that Green was not negligent in his care of Brett Morris, who died 19 hours after his birth at the hospital.

After deliberating for about three hours, the jury of eight men and four women also ruled the hospital was not negligent in the death.

The case came to Carroll Circuit Court after Green appealed the decision of a three-member Maryland Arbitration Board in Sykesville that found him negligent and awarded the baby's parents, Robert and Barbara Morris, $550,000 in damages.

The hospital was not found liable by the arbitration board.

Vice contends that there should be a new trial in the case because juror Mary E. Zepp of Westminster appeared friendly to Green and his wife when she took her seat in the jury box.

"She nodded with recognition to thedefendant Green and his wife, smiled broadly at defendant's counsel," the motion states.

The motion also states that Zepp overtly disapproved of Vice and her assistant.

"When she passed the plaintiff's counsel, she glared at her and threw her head up in disdain," the motion says.

Shortly after the jury was seated, Vice made a motion that Zepp be dismissed from the jury. Arnold denied that motion and again asked the jurors if they had any relationship with Green or anyone else in the case. All of the jurors denied any relationship.

Vice contends that because there were two alternates chosen for the jury, either could have been substituted for Zepp.

Green's attorney, Michael Baxter of Baltimore, said he did not notice an exchange between Zepp and Green.

"I watched all the jurors take their seats, andI didn't see anybody scowling at anybody," Baxter said.

He said he believed Vice was "grasping at straws" with the argument and that he would have Green and his wife sign affidavits saying they do not know Zepp.

Green said that if he had known the woman, he would have told the judge at the start of the trial.

"I certainly would not want to do anything to jeopardize the case," Green said.

Zepp couldnot be reached for comment.

Baxter also disputes the other reasons Vice gives in her motion for a new trial.

Vice contends that thejury's verdict in favor of the doctor and the hospital was "against the overwhelming evidence presented at the trial."

To support her argument, Vice cites the expert testimony of Canadian doctor Victor Chernick and other health-care specialists who maintained Green was negligent in his care of the baby.

Baxter and Morgan both disagree with Vice's assertion.

"The jury heard directly conflicting expert testimony on both sides of the case," said Baxter. "We took three weeks of a Carroll County jury's time so they could hear all the evidence. I don't think there was 'overwhelming evidence' on either side."

Morgan said he did not believe Vice's argument is "legitimate grounds for an appeal."

After the attorneys for the doctor and the hospital file their replies, Arnold will schedule a hearing on the motion.

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