High Court Says Defendant's Good Deed Didn't Sway Jury's Opinion of Codefendant

Jan 23, 2015

The Iowa Supreme Court says the good deed of one defendant did not unfairly sway the jury's opinion of his codefendant. 

During a 2012 medical malpractice trial, defendant Dr. John Sweetman came to the aid of juror who fainted. The anesthesiologist was on the witness stand at the time.

The juror was replaced and the trial concluded with both Sweetman and OBGYN Dr. Jennifer Booth, his codefendant, cleared of malpractice. 

Plaintiff Mary Jack requested and was granted a retrial at the Iowa Court of Appeals. She says when Sweetman helped the stricken juror, he swayed the rest of the jury to view the defense positively. 

Booth appealed to the state Supreme Court saying the initial verdict should stand. Booth says since she provided no medical aid to the juror, the jury’s opinion of her was not altered by Sweetman's actions. 

Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor Booth. Sweetman did not appeal and will be retried on his own.

"Normally, we judge people as individuals, not as members of a group, or at least we try to follow that approach," writes Justice Edward Mansfield. "It is just as possible that Dr. Booth’s failure to render care would be held against her as that Dr. Sweetman’s acts would transfer sympathy to Dr. Booth."

Additionally the court says Sweetman and Booth can be tried separately, since Jack's claims against each doctor deals with separate injuries that arose from separate acts.  

Jack's claim against Booth dealt with blood loss and complications after a cesarean section. 

With Sweetman, Jack alleges his negligence caused an IV he inserted become infiltrated. Infiltration occurs when fluid doesn't flow into a vein, but instead is pushed into surrounding tissue.