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The Utah Trial Blog

Important issues relating to litigation, Utah law and the practice of law.

Ethics Lesson for Med. Mal. Defense Counsel, Part 1

Below please find selections from the Utah Supreme Court's opinion in Wilson v. IHC, 2012 UT 43, wherein the Utah Supreme Court reversed a jury verdict for the Defendant Hospital due to defense counsel Charles W. Dalhquist II's intentional and repeated misconduct. As background, this case involves a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by Jerome Wilson and Leilani Wilson on behalf of their son, Jared. The Wilsons allege that employees of IHC Hospitals, Inc. (IHC) breached their duty of care during Ms. Wilson's labor and delivery of Jared. The Wilsons further claim that IHC's negligence caused Jared to suffer severe brain damage. Here are some excerpts from the Utah Supreme Court's reversal of the verdict in favor of the Defendants:

  • Of the issues raised on appeal, we find IHC's violation of the collateral source rule to be dispositive. To ensure enforcement of this well-established common-law rule, the Wilsons sought, and received, an in limine order excluding collateral source evidence at trial.  
  • during trial, IHC persistently and deliberately violated the trial court's order. IHC's counsel made numerous, explicit references to collateral source evidence. He also referenced collateral source evidence by repeatedly asking witnesses about the "out-of-pocket expenses" the Wilsons had incurred in caring for Jared. IHC's trial tactics violated the in limine order, misled the trial court and substantially prejudiced the jury. We hold that the collateral source rule precludes both explicit reference and methodical allusion to collateral source benefits. Because IHC repeatedly disregarded the in limine order and violated the collateral source rule, we vacate the jury's verdict and remand this case to the trial court.

The case then includes an extensive discussion of illegal meetings held between defense counsel Joann Both and one Plaintiff's treating physicians which had the effect of tampering with material evidence and misleading the jury as to the role of an important expert. The Utah Supreme Court then remained the case back to the trial court for a determination of the appropriate sanction. That sanctions proceeding will be the subject of my next blog post.

Gabriel White