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Trigg v. Children's Hosp. of Pittsburgh

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

October 15, 2019, Argued; April 22, 2020, Decided

No. 3 WAP 2019

Opinion

JUSTICE TODD

In this case, a medical negligence suit brought by Appellees against Appellant Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh ("Hospital"), we accepted review to consider, inter alia, Appellees' argument that the trial court erred by not personally observing the demeanor of prospective jurors they challenged for-cause during voir dire.1 The Superior Court granted Appellees a new trial on this basis. After careful consideration, we conclude Appellees waived their argument for appellate review, and, thus, that the Superior Court erred in considering it. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the Superior Court and remand to that tribunal for further proceedings.

 [*2] I. Facts and Procedural History

Appellee Mendy Trigg is the parent of J.T., who, in 2011, was age 4 and afflicted with craniosynostosis, a medical condition which results when, during an infant's growth and development process, his or her skull closes prematurely and exerts increased pressure on the brain. Trial Court Opinion, 9/7/17, at 2. On May 19, 2011, J.T. underwent surgery at the Hospital to correct this condition. Afterward, J.T. was transferred for postoperative care to one of the Hospital's intensive care units. While recovering there, J.T. fell out of the hospital bed, and, as a result, suffered damage to the surgically repaired cranial area, necessitating immediate ameliorative surgery. Id.

Subsequently, Appellees filed suit against the Hospital in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas alleging, inter alia, that the Hospital was negligent in placing J.T. in a regular adult size hospital bed, due to the large spaces between the vertical side rails, which they alleged enabled J.T.'s fall.2 The Hospital denied negligence, and, after discovery was completed, the case was listed for trial during the March 2017 civil trial term.

By way of background, in accordance with the  [*3]  Allegheny County Local Rules of Civil Procedure ("A.C.L.R.C.P."), all members of the pool of prospective jurors summoned to serve during a civil trial term are required to fill out a written questionnaire in which they provide, inter alia, general personal information about their age, occupation, family members, prior involvement with any civil or criminal court cases, and relationships they have with individuals employed by the court system, or by insurance or health care professions. See Juror Questionnaire, A.C.L.R.C.P. 220.1. Pursuant to A.C.L.R.C.P. 212.2(b), prior to the commencement of voir dire, counsel for the plaintiff and defendant are both required to prepare pretrial statements in which counsel must include any statements which they wish to give to the entire group of prospective jurors at the outset of voir dire, as well as any proposed additional questions to be asked of individual prospective jurors. As required by A.C.L.R.C.P. 212.2(c), disputes between parties regarding the content of such statements or questions are submitted to the calendar control judge for resolution. Notably, however, although available to rule on objections, neither the calendar control judge, nor the trial judge is ordinarily present during [*4]  the voir dire process. Rather, the process is normally managed by a court clerk.3

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2020 Pa. LEXIS 2240 *

MENDY TRIGG, INDIVIDUALLY AND SMITHFIELD TRUST, INC., AS THE GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE OF J. T., A MINOR, Appellees v. CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PITTSBURGH OF UPMC, Appellant

Prior History:  [*1] Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court dated May 14, 2018 at No. 1041 WDA 2017, vacating the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, dated June 28, 2017 at No. GD 13-002322 and remanding.

Trigg v. Children's Hosp. of Pittsburgh of UPMC, 2018 PA Super 129, 187 A.3d 1013, 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 499 (Pa. Super. Ct., May 14, 2018)

CORE TERMS

juror, prospective juror, voir dire, questioning, demeanor, trial court, trial judge, answers, for-cause, challenges, waived, observe, parties, appellate review, proceedings, post-trial, bias, court clerk, defer, preservation, malpractice, follow-up, calendar, personal observation, fair and impartial, voir dire process, appellate court, credibility, feelings, assess

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Judgments, Relief From Judgments