New Standard Voir Dire Questions for Malpractice Cases Approved

By Michael Zerres

Supreme Court Special Committee Agrees on Questions to Be Asked in All Cases

There has not been much by way of significant medical malpractice case law since my last blog entry, so I thought I would report on the recent approval by the Supreme Court of standard questions (voir dire) to be asked in all Civil cases, as well as those Civil cases involving medical malpractice.

In New Jersey, unlike many other states, attorneys do not interview prospective jurors, but rather, the judge assigned to the case does. In the past, there has been a lack of uniformity as to the manner in which these questions were asked AND what questions were asked of prospective jurors. In order to improve the practice of jury selection statewide, standard questions have been developed. Quoting from the Committee, “[t]he purpose of jury selection is to obtain a jury that can decide the case without bias against any of the involved parties, that will evaluate the evidence with an open mind, and that will apply the law as instructed by the judge.” The hope is, with the establishment of uniform questions to be asked in all cases, implemented with a degree of flexibility, fair juries can be seated to hear these often complex cases.

  1. Have you, or family member, or a close personal friend, ever had any experience, either so good or so bad, with a doctor or any other health care provider, that would make it difficult for you to sit as an impartial juror in this matter?
  2. If the law and the evidence warranted, could you award damages for the plaintiff even if you felt sympathy for the doctor?
  3. Regardless of plaintiff’s present condition, if the law and evidence warranted, could you render a verdict in favor of the defendant despite being sympathetic to the plaintiff?
  4. Have you, any family member, or close personal friend ever worked for: Attorneys, Doctors, Hospitals or Physical Therapists, Any type of health care provider, Any ambulance / EMT / Rescue?
  5. Have you, or any members of your family, been employed in processing, investigating or handling any type of medical or personal injury claims? If so, please describe.
  6. Is there anything that you may have read in the print media or seen on television or heard on the radio about medical negligence cases or caps or limits on jury verdicts or awards that would prevent you from deciding this case fairly and impartially on the facts presented?
    • If the answer to Question No. 6 is affirmative, ask the following question at sidebar:
    • If so, what did you hear or read?
    • Did the news coverage affect your thinking about medical malpractice cases in any way?(d) How?
  7. This case involves a claim against the defendant for injuries suffered by the plaintiff as a result of alleged medical negligence. Do you have any existing opinions or strong feelings one way or another about such cases?
    • If the answer to Question No. 7 is affirmative, ask the following question at sidebar:
    • If so, what are your opinions?
  8. Have any of you or members of your immediate family ever suffered any complications from childbirth?
  9. Do you have any familiarity with [the specific condition which is part of the case] or any familiarity with the types of treatment available?
  10. Are you, or have you ever been, related (by blood or marriage) to anyone affiliated with the health care field? If so, please describe:
  11. Have you or any relative or close personal friend ever had a dispute with respect to a health care issue of any kind with a doctor, chiropractor, dentist, nurse, hospital employee, technician or other person employed in the health care field?
  12. Have you or any relative or close personal friend ever brought a claim against a doctor, chiropractor, dentist, nurse or hospital for an injury allegedly caused by a doctor, dentist, nurse or hospital?
  13. Have you or any relative or close personal friend ever considered bringing a medical or dental negligence action but did not do so?
  14. Have you or any relative or close personal friend ever been involved with treatment which did not produce the desired outcome?

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