A medical malpractice lawsuit brought in Georgia concerning a birth injury has drawn the strong attention of that state's Supreme Court, which ruled earlier this week on the right of a natural party to be present in a courtroom in a matter concerning that party.
That wasn't the way a state court saw it when it denied the right of a 13-year-old with cerebral palsy to be freely present in the courtroom while her case was being litigated against a hospital and doctor. The trial court ruled that the girl's manifest physical and mental disabilities could unduly sway a jury, and it thus limited her presence to one sole occasion when it was deemed to be "essential and relevant" to her medical condition.
That was in error, stated the Supreme Court, which ruled that the case -- in which the jury found in favor of the defendants -- must be retried, with the girl having the right to be present in the courtroom at all times.
The girl's presence, noted the Court, might indeed influence the jury, but the proper way to address that concern was through less onerous restrictions. The Court stated that those include jury instructions, moving the trial to another venue and/or placing a limit on what can be said during opening statements and closing arguments.
The court ruled 6-1 in remanding the case for a new trial. The justice writing for the majority stated that, "The right of a natural party to be present in the courtroom when her case is being tried is deeply rooted in the law of this nation."
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Court says disabled child can attend trial," Bill Rankin, June 18, 2012