Kervick v. Silver Hill Hospital
Absent juror misconduct, a trial judge who advises jurors to avoid any media coverage may not be required to poll the jurors in response to a New York Times article about the case. The plaintiff's decedent, who suffered from major depression and personality disorder, admitted herself to Silver Hill Hospital and was diagnosed with extremely high suicide ideation. One week later, the plaintiff's decedent hung herself. The plaintiff estate executor, David Kervick, sued Silver Hill Hospital and the decedent's psychiatrist. During voir dire, jurors were instructed to avoid media coverage concerning the case. At trial, Kervick asked the judge to poll the jury on whether jurors read a New York Times article published four days earlier about the decedent's suicide and the trial. The trial court, concerned that polling the jury had the potential to delay trial, and that asking jurors about the New York Times article would cause jurors to read it, denied the request. Douglas Jacobs, a board-certified psychiatrist, testified at trial that the defendant hospital complied with the standard of medical care. The jury returned a verdict for the defendants. The plaintiff estate executor appealed. The Appellate Court found that the trial court abused its discretion, because it did not poll the jurors. The defendants appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court and argued that the trial judge was not required to poll the jury, because there was no evidence that the jury disregarded court instructions to avoid media coverage. In the absence of evidence of juror misconduct, whether a trial court in a civil case abuses its discretion, because it does not poll the jury about an article concerning the subject-matter of trial, constitutes an issue of first impression. The Connecticut Supreme Court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to poll the jury. Concurring, Justice Richard Palmer wrote, "[T]he trial court adequately addressed the plaintiff's legitimate concern about the newspaper article by repeatedly advising the jury . . . to avoid or otherwise disregard any media coverage of the case."