Medical Malpractice Defendant Waives Argument for Appeal by Failing to Object at Trial

Earlier last month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case upholding a lower court’s decision to grant the plaintiff a new trial after newly discovered evidence showed that the defendant may be liable for her loved one’s death. In upholding the lower court’s decision, the court denied the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff’s failure to pay a mandatory filing fee deprived the court of the power to issue the new trial.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a patient who had been left quadriplegic after being treated by the defendant hospital. Shortly after the patient’s diagnosis, he filed a lawsuit against the hospital, claiming it was responsible for his condition. After a jury trial, it was determined that the hospital’s negligence was not the cause of his quadriplegia. Shortly after trial, the patient died.

After the patient’s death, the plaintiff discovered additional evidence suggesting the defendant’s actions were the cause of her loved one’s quadriplegia and subsequent death. The plaintiff petitioned the court for a new trial. A required part of that petition was the payment of a filing fee. The plaintiff filed the petition on time but failed to pay the filing fee.

Initially, the defendant did not object to the plaintiff’s failure to pay the filing fee. Instead, the defendant answered the plaintiff’s petition, asking the court to deny it. The court determined that a new trial was appropriate.

The defendant appealed the court’s decision to issue a new trial. Specifically, the defendant argued that the court lacked the power to order a new trial because the plaintiff had failed to pay the filing fee on time.

The Court’s Decision

The court disagreed that the plaintiff’s failure to pay the filing fee on time deprived the court of jurisdiction to hear the case. The court agreed that when a jurisdictional rule is violated, the opposing party need not object because the violation of the rule strips the court of the power to issue a binding decision, regardless of whether an objection is made. However, the court determined that the rule at issue in this case was not a jurisdictional rule. Thus, the defendant needed to object in order to preserve the alleged error for appeal. Since the defendant failed to object at the time but instead answered the plaintiff’s petition, the defendant waived the right to make the argument on appeal.

This case illustrates how important it is for Indiana personal injury plaintiffs to retain dedicated counsel who will diligently handle their case because even the most seemingly insignificant oversight can result in the waiver of certain rights.

Have You Been Injured Due to a Doctor’s Negligence?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of medical malpractice in Indiana, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse understand the nuances and complicated procedural rules of Indiana medical malpractice cases, and we are prepared to put our experience to work for you. Call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated attorney today.

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