Court holds there were many errors in trial, but all were harmless; verdict for doctor upheld
Edward Wilson sued Munson Medical Center and his wife's doctors after they failed to diagnose an aortic aneurysm. She was hospitalized over the Easter weekend and died when the aneurysm ruptured. The Court of Appeals ruled that it was error to admit evidence that Edward had a juvenile sexual molestation conviction 24 years earlier; that it was error to refer to a DSS recommendation that Wilson's sister-in-law have custody of his step-children after he collapsed, emotionally; and that it was error to direct a verdict in favor of one of the nurses who cared for his wife. The Court ruled that all of these errors were "harmless." Certainly the man suffered no prejudice from being labeled a "molester."
Wilson's attorneys also objected to the involved doctor "repeatedly" identifying herself as a nun, however, the Court pointed out that "there was no specific statement that she was a nun" and that she only testified that she was a "Sister of Mercy" and in an "order:" the defendants did not place emphasis on her religious devotion or argue that it made her more credible.
One of the defendant doctors had testified at deposition that a CT scan was the "gold standard" for diagnosing an aneurysm, but claimed "that [term] would not be appropriate" when the question was asked on cross examination. It was error not to allow his impeachment by the deposition, however, again, the Court of Appeals held that the error was harmless, since the doctor acknowledged the CT scan was the proper test and the "best test of choice."
The Court of Appeals ruled it was not error to deny the victim's attorneys the right to point out to the jury that the Defense expert had been sued for also failing to identify an aortic aneurysm. The panel also ruled it was within the judge's discretion to refuse to allow the victim's attorney to point out that the expert had testified on this issue previously on behalf of Munson.
This case should help doctors sleep more comfortably at night.