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Court to decide if disabled girl can be present during med mal trial: Part 3

As discussed in the previous two posts, an ongoing medical malpractice case in another state has brought up some complicated issues regarding whether a child disabled by an alleged birth injury should be allowed in a courtroom. The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia. The high court will decide whether a lower court erred in only allowing the girl into the courtroom in certain situations.

The girl's parents are suing their obstetrician because they say he delayed a C-section, which they say led to the girl's brain being deprived of oxygen and caused her cerebral palsy. The girl, now 8, was not allowed in the courtroom in certain instances, such as when her mother was testifying.

An appellate court that heard the case said that the lower court was justified in not allowing the girl in the courtroom for a few reasons.

The appellate court said that the parties in a lawsuit have the right to be present at trial, but not always. They said that certain conditions may mean a party to a civil action could be excluded. The court said these conditions are that the plaintifff was injured, the injuries were blamed on the defendants, the presence of the girl could elicit sympathy from the jury that might affect their decision, the plaintifff cannot actively participate in the trial or communicate, and the plaintifff cannot understand what is going on.

Because these factors are in place in this situation, the appellate court ruled the girl was not executing a right to be at trial, but her presence was closer to evidence for the plaintifffs.

The plaintifffs say that the girl has a right to be at the trial and will argue this before the state Supreme Court, likely in January.

Source:, "Case of disabled girl prompts tricky issue," Alyson M. Palmer, Oct. 19, 2011

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