The death of a child is a heart-wrenching experience, and more so when family members believe it could have been prevented. In such situations, a Tennessee medical malpractice attorney can handle the procedural aspects of a negligence lawsuit, while the family focuses on healing. A February 6, 2018 medical malpractice case before the Court of Appeals of Tennessee was brought by the parents of an infant who died in childbirth. After a jury ruled in favor of the medical provider defendants, the plaintiffs appealed. The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued a technical point on appeal concerning the jury selection, and they ultimately succeeded in reversing the verdict and obtaining a new trial.
The plaintiffs in the case, individually and as administrators of the child’s estate, filed a complaint against the hospital, the treating physician, and the obygn practice, alleging negligence and vicarious liability for the wrongful death of their child. During the jury selection process, the plaintiffs requested eight peremptory challenges, arguing that there were two party plaintiffs. The trial court denied the request, finding that it was only the estate’s lawsuit, and granted the plaintiffs four peremptory challenges with two additional challenges for alternates. The plaintiffs could therefore strike only four potential jurors from the selection pool without cause.
One of the arguments on appeal was whether the trial court erred in limiting the plaintiffs to less than eight peremptory challenges. A peremptory challenge is a right provided by statute, permitting a party plaintiff to exclude a prospective juror without giving any reason for it. The statute at issue allows four challenges for the party plaintiff, and in the event there is more than one plaintiff, it provides for an additional four challenges. The initial question for the court, therefore, was whether the wrongful death action belonged to one plaintiff, i.e., the estate, or whether both parents named in the lawsuit constituted two plaintiffs.