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Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) provides, in part, that if, on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the federal district court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, and all parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. In this regard, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) is identical to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). On the other, a federal district court may exclude a disabled plaintiff or limit her presence without denying due process, if her mere presence would render the jury unable to arrive at an unbiased judgment concerning liability, and she cannot understand the proceedings and aid counsel. This is so because, in that situation, the district court must balance the plaintiff's due process rights with the defendant's right to an unbiased jury trial.
Plaintiff Josefina Rubert-Torres, in representation of her daughter, Kimayra Cintron-Rubert who had cerebral palsy, brought this medical malpractice action against defendants Dr. Nestor Rivera-Cotte, the doctor who delivered her daughter, and Hospital San Pablo where her daughter was born. Before trial, the district court entered summary judgment for the defendant hospital. At trial, plaintiff's theory, supported by an obstetrical/gynecological (OB/GYN) expert and a neurological expert, was that physician error during her pregnancy and delivery of her daughter caused the latter’s disabilities. Defendant physician’s theory, supported by his own OB/GYN, neurological, and genetics experts, was that the daughter’s disabilities arose genetically. The district court granted summary judgment for defendant hospital, also, the jury returned a verdict for the defendant physician. Plaintiffs appealed first contending that the district court erred in entering summary judgment sua sponte in favor of the defendant Hospital, and that her daughter was improperly excluded from the courthouse?
Did the trial court abused its discretion when
The court held that it was not an abuse of discretion to convert defendant hospital's Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings into one for summary judgment. The court ruled that, plaintiffs implicitly invited conversion by incorporating materials outside the pleadings into their opposition to defendant hospital's motion. Hence, this aspect of the judgment was affirmed. However, the court held that it was an abuse of discretion to disallow plaintiff daughter in the courtroom for the purpose of a physical demonstration. The court reversed this evidentiary ruling and remanded because of the highly probative nature of the jury's view of plaintiff daughter, lack of use of less restrictive means of eliminating the evidence's prejudicial effect, and the arbitrariness of the ruling.