Pellicer ex rel. Pellicer v. St. Barnabas Hosp.
Supreme Court of New Jersey
November 5, 2008, Argued; July 23, 2009, Decided
A-88/A-89/A-90/A-91 September Term 2007
[*28] [**1073] Justice HOENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
This matter involves a tragic series of events in which the infant plaintiff Casey Pellicer, then recovering from surgery at defendant St. Barnabas Hospital, was disconnected from a respirator and suffered severe brain damage. In the medical malpractice trial that followed, his mother, plaintiff Areli Pellicer, asserted that his injuries were caused by doctors and nurses [***16] who were involved in his post-operative care and by the hospital's inadequate protocols and training. Each defendant denied liability.
After a lengthy trial, the jury returned a verdict that included $ 50 million for pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life, as well as sizeable compensatory awards. This appeal requires us to consider several issues, including whether the verdict was excessive, whether the selection process resulted in a jury that was biased, and whether the trial was tainted by cumulative error.
The facts on which the trial was based, although complex, need only be summarized in order to give context to the issues [**1074] we address. In doing so, we focus on the assertions made among the parties concerning their theories of liability for the infant plaintiff's injuries.
The infant plaintiff Casey Pellicer was born with spina bifida, a congenital spine defect. On September 25, 1998, when he was four months old, he underwent spinal surgery at defendant [***17] St. Barnabas Hospital to remedy certain aspects of that condition. The specifics of that underlying congenital condition and of the [*29] surgery are not germane to the issues we are called upon to address because the focus of the litigation was on injuries that plaintiffs assert were sustained by the infant plaintiff during a brief time frame after the surgery itself was performed.
Following the surgery, the infant plaintiff was moved into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). During that transport, an anesthesiologist used a standard procedure referred to as "bagging" to manually force air into his lungs through an endotracheal tube. After the infant reached the PICU, that manual procedure stopped, and his endotracheal tube, which was secured by tape to his mouth, was connected to a ventilator. Defendant Delphine Anderson, a registered nurse who was primarily responsible for the infant's care, and defendant Jean Rue, a PICU nurse, were assigned to care for him in the PICU, and his mother, plaintiff Areli Pellicer, was also present in the PICU room.Read The Full CaseNot a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.
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200 N.J. 22 *; 974 A.2d 1070 **; 2009 N.J. LEXIS 805 ***
CASEY PELLICER, BY HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, ARELI PELLICER AND ARELI PELLICER, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS, v. ST. BARNABAS HOSPITAL AND SAM EDELMAN, M.D., DEFENDANTS, AND J. RUE, R.N., NOW KNOWN AS JEAN SMOGARD-RUE, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, AND D. KROPILAK, R.N., NOW KNOWN AS DELPHINE ANDERSON, R.N., ANNE OLESNICKY, M.D., MICHAEL VALLEE, M.D. AND NORMAN ZEIG, M.D., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.
Prior History: [***1] On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.
Pellicer v. St. Barnabas Hosp., 2007 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2244 (2007)
infant, jurors, cumulative, strips, sidebar, bias, anesthesiologist, impartial, tube, delivery, deprived, mistrial, inappropriate, aggregate, attending, trained, monitoring, discovery, remittitur, ventilator, deviated, unbiased, arrived, biased, breath, certif, oxygen, inflammatory, reintubate, emotional
Civil Procedure, Jurors, Selection, Challenges for Cause, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Trial by Jury in Civil Actions, Jury Trials, General Overview, Voir Dire, Standards of Review, Harmless & Invited Errors, Appeals, Relief From Judgments, Additur & Remittitur, Remittiturs, Reversible Errors