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Hartman v. Edwards

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

September 17, 2014

MARY HARTMAN and DONNA DEWEY, APPELLANTS
v.
HENRY N. EDWARDS, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CV-2010-425. HONORABLE MICHAEL MEDLOCK, JUDGE.

James E. Keever, M.D., J.D.; and Ken Swindle, for appellant.

Cox, Cox & Estes, PLLC, by: Walter B. Cox and James R. Estes, for appellee.

HARRISON and GRUBER, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 14

RHONDA K. WOOD, Judge.

Appellants, co-administrators of Kenneth Bieler's estate, appeal following a jury verdict for the appellee in a medical-malpractice case. They raise the following four arguments: (1) defense counsel improperly argued for jury nullification, (2) the circuit court erred in dismissing Crystal Bieler as a beneficiary, (3) the court should have granted their motion for a new trial, and (4) the court should have given instruction AMI Civ. 206 to the jury. We find no error and affirm the decision of the circuit court in its entirety.

Kenneth Bieler had surgery for a fractured femur on January 7, 2009. He developed abdominal distention and was readmitted to the hospital on January 14, 2009. Upon readmission, Dr. Henry Edwards, appellee, was his treating physician. A little over a week later, Dr. Edwards discovered that Mr. Bieler had a blood clot and gave him a one-half dosage of blood thinners. Mr. Bieler became unresponsive and died of a massive pulmonary embolism.

Appellants brought a wrongful-death action against Dr. Edwards. They claimed that he was medically negligent for failing to properly assess and treat Mr. Bieler for potential blood clotting. The complaint included Mr. Bieler's biological daughter, Crystal Bieler, who was subsequently adopted, as a wrongful-death beneficiary.

The case was presented to a jury. At the close of appellants' evidence, Dr. Edwards moved for a directed verdict on Crystal Bieler's claim as a beneficiary, contending that her adoption precluded her from recovering. The court granted the directed-verdict motion. The jury later returned a verdict in Dr. Edwards's favor.

Page 15

I. Jury Nullification

During closing arguments, counsel for appellee stated that a plaintiff's verdict " tells Dr. Edwards you caused the death of a patient, you caused the death of Mr. Kenneth Bieler." Appellants' counsel objected, stating, " I think Mr. Cox's last comments are an argument for the jury, I'm just asking him not to decide what the evidence is." The court gave a cautionary jury instruction that counsel's statements were not evidence. Appellants now contend that the closing statement is grounds for reversal because it was inflammatory, prejudicial, and amounted to a plea for jury nullification. They also claim the statement violated the court's order-in-limine, which prohibited any attempt to generate passion and prejudice or suggestions that an adverse verdict might cause negative personal consequences for Dr. Edwards.

We do not reach the merits of this issue. Appellants must make specific objections to apprise the court of the particular error alleged. Leach v. State, 2012 Ark. 179, 402 S.W.3d 517. An appellant may not change the grounds for objection on appeal, but is limited by the scope and nature of the objections and arguments presented at trial. Southern College of Naturopathy v. State ex rel. Beebe, 360 Ark. 543, 203 S.W.3d 111 (2005). Appellants' objection at trial was vague and failed to give notice to the court of the particular error. The objection did not specify that defense ...


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