Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Medical Negligence Case Raises Questions About Voting Instructions for Juries

Image showing a row of empty wooden chairs.

The Supreme Court will hear a debate over the jury process in medical negligence lawsuits.

Image showing a row of empty wooden chairs.

The Supreme Court will hear a debate over the jury process in medical negligence lawsuits.

A 37-year-old man died after an emergency surgery in 2017, and his estate sued the medical providers. The medical negligence case required jurors to decide specific issues, including whether the anesthesiologist was negligent in the care of the patient and whether those actions directly caused the harm to the patient. At the trial, the estate and the medical providers disagreed on the correct way for jurors in Ohio to review those issues during deliberations.

The trial court ruled that only the jurors who found the anesthesiologist was negligent could move on to the next question about causation. The appeals court reversed, determining there is a constitutional right to have the entire jury decide each question.

The dispute over the jury process in medical negligence lawsuits will be heard next week before the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Intubated Patient Wakes Up After Surgery Still in Operating Room
On Christmas Eve 2017, Scott Boldman complained of pain that indicated appendicitis. He went into emergency surgery for an appendectomy at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. While still in the operating room after surgery, Boldman awoke from the anesthesia while the breathing tube was still in his throat. He pulled out the tube, his heart stopped, and he suffered brain damage. He died on Jan. 1, 2018.

The lawsuit alleged medical malpractice and wrongful death against nurse anesthetist Sandra Ward, Dr. Vincent Phillips, Consolidated Anesthesiologists, and the hospital. Ward handled the anesthesia for Boldman under Phillips’ supervision.

The civil case went to trial before an eight-person jury. The judge and the attorneys discussed the formal questions the jury would need to answer in writing, during their deliberations. These questions are called interrogatories. The trial court determined that only the jurors who found Ward negligent could move on to the next question – to decide if Ward’s negligence was the “proximate cause” of Boldman’s injuries and death.

The jury needed six of the eight jurors for a ruling. Six of eight found Ward’s actions were negligent. Only those six jurors participated in the causation question. All six determined that Ward’s conduct didn’t cause Boldman’s injuries and death. The jury verdict was in favor of Ward, Phillips, Consolidated Anesthesiologists, and the hospital.

Janet Hild, administrator of the Boldman estate, appealed to the Second District Court of Appeals. The Second District ruled that all eight jurors had to participate in deciding both negligence and causation. The appeals court ordered the case back to the trial court to determine causation, the liability of Ward’s supervisors and the hospital system, and damages.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal from Good Samaritan, Consolidated Anesthesiologists, and the employees.

Only Jurors Who Find Negligence Can Vote on Causation, Medical Groups Maintain
The medical providers argue that if a juror finds a defendant’s actions weren’t negligent, the juror cannot vote on the causation question. Only the same jurors who find negligence can participate in determining causation, the providers maintain. This is referred to as the “same juror” rule.

The Ohio Constitution states that in civil cases, the verdict must be based on “the concurrence of not less than three-fourths of the jury.” The medical providers argue in their brief that a plaintiff must “convince six of eight jurors to rule in his or her favor on all essential elements, not to cobble together, in piecemeal fashion, six different jurors on each of these essential elements.”

All Jurors Must Answer Each Question, Estate Argues
Hild maintains that Ohio law requires all jurors to participate in answering each question put before them in a medical negligence lawsuit. This approach is called the “any majority” rule. Negligence and causation are independent elements, and the entire jury must participate in deciding each one, Hild argues. She contends that liability is established when six or more jurors on the eight-person jury agrees on each question.

The any majority rule protects the constitutional right to have the entire jury consider legal claims because it permits all jurors to participate in each question, Hild concludes.

Watch Oral Arguments Online
The Supreme Court will hear Hild v. Samaritan Health Partners and three other cases, described below, during oral arguments on April 9. Oral arguments begin at 9 a.m. They will be streamed live online at and on the Ohio Channel, where they are archived.

Detailed case previews from the Office of Public Information are available by clicking on the name of each case.

Tax Value Appeals
To enable county auditors to determine the value of farmland for tax purposes, the state tax commissioner assigns per-acre values to different types of farmland, including wooded areas that are part of or next to cropland. But the value of woodland is the agricultural rate after subtracting what it would cost to clear the land. Before 2015, the tax commissioner used a $500 per acre deduction for land clearing costs to determine the value of woodland. Members of an agriculture advisory committee told the tax commissioner that the average clearing cost is $3,350 per acre. The commissioner set the clearing cost at $1,000 per acre. In Adams v. Harris, the Supreme Court will consider whether the woodland value set by the commissioner was arbitrary, resulting in some landowners paying higher property taxes.

Lawsuit Notice Rules
In 2020, the estate of a woman who died from a stroke filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in Hamilton County against her doctor, the physician group employing the doctor, and the hospital where the woman was first treated. A copy of the complaint was mailed to the doctor and a former business address, and it was returned to the clerk of court as undeliverable. However, the doctor became aware of the lawsuit when the physician group received a copy, and lawyers responded for both the doctor and his employer. In their response, the doctor argued the case should be dismissed because he wasn’t properly served. For the next two years, the doctor’s attorneys actively participated in the case before again asking the trial court to dismiss the case for improper service. The court dismissed the case. In Ackman v. Mercy Health West Hospital, the Supreme Court will consider whether the doctor could seek dismissal based on lack of service after actively participating in the litigation.

Witness Intimidation
A man who borrowed $10,000 from his girlfriend hired other men to shoot her after she kept asking about repayment. The night of the shooting, a group of people were watching a movie in the girlfriend’s Colerain Township home. The shooters killed one adult and wounded the girlfriend, four other adults, and three children. At the trial, the man who hired the shooters agreed to testify for the state and alleged that one of the shooters had tried to keep him from testifying. The trial court allowed the jury to hear evidence of witness intimidation, and the jury convicted the shooter. In State v. Echols, the shooter accused of witness intimidation argues to the Court that evidence was used to show he tended to behave in certain ways. That type of evidence can’t be admitted in court, he contends. The county prosecutor responds that intimidating a witness is directly related to the charged crimes and proved the shooter’s guilt.