Court Finds That Improper Jury Instruction on Informed Consent Confused Jury

Posted in Medical Malpractice,Tennessee Accident Law on November 25, 2014

At the end of any trial, the jury is instructed by the judge as to what its job is in that particular case. In most cases, this allows the attorneys and the judge to narrow down the legal issues to a few salient issues that the jury must resolve in order to come to a valid legal conclusion.

operation-1389104-mOften, the parties to a lawsuit will litigate over the instructions that are provided to the jury, each side vying for instructions that are more favorable to its position. One limitation on jury instructions is that they must not confuse the jury. Indeed, this is the exact opposite of what jury instructions are designed to do.

In one recent medical malpractice case out of Arkansas, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision in favor of a defendant doctor after it determined that the provided jury instructions on the doctrine of informed consent were confusing to the jury.

Millsap v. Williams

In the recent case, Millsap v. Williams, the Arkansas Supreme Court heard a case about a doctor who put a nasogastric tube in a patient without his consent. The facts are as follows:

The plaintiff was admitted for surgery to remove a part of his colon. As a part of the procedure, the defendant doctor ordered the nasogastric tube to be placed. However, the plaintiff twice refused the tube, explaining that he did not want to have the procedure done if the tube would be put inside him.

Over the course of his treatment, the defendant doctor ended up putting in the tube anyhow. This lead to a series of bad reactions, culminating in the plaintiff suffering from a hypoxic brain injury. He required constant care until he died, a short time later. His son filed a wrongful death suit against the doctor.

At Trial

After the summation of the evidence, the defendant doctor asked the court to instruct the jury on the doctrine of informed consent. The instruction told the jury that they could find the defendant not liable for the death of the plaintiff if the defendant provided the plaintiff with the potential risks of the procedure, and the plaintiff agreed to go ahead with the procedure anyhow. The trial judge agreed and provided the jury with the requested instruction over the plaintiff’s objection.

The plaintiff’s objection was that there was no indication that there was any consent, let alone informed consent. The plaintiff argued that by injecting the issue of informed consent into the trial, it would confuse the jury.

On Appeal

The Supreme Court of Arkansas agreed with the plaintiff and reversed the lower court’s decision. This is a favorable decision for medical malpractice victims, since it prevents the defendant from obscuring the issues that the jury must decide.

Have You Been Injured in a Tennessee Medical Malpractice Case?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured by the medical negligence of a physician, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a medical malpractice action. To learn more, contact one of the dedicated Tennessee malpractice attorneys at Matt Hardin Law. Call 615-200-1111 to set up a free consultation today.

See Related Blog Posts:

Bartlett Police Officer May Be Responsible for Fatal Tennessee Accident, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published October 22, 2014.

5 Common Causes of Auto Accidents, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published November 14, 2014.