$14 Million Judgment Reversed on Appeal
PM&B’s Appellate Practice Group achieved one of the most significant appellate victories in New York in 2007. In DeCrescenzo v. Gonzalez, __ A.D.2d __, 847 N.Y.S.2d 236 (2d Dep’t 2007), a medical malpractice action involving a brain-damaged child, a Brooklyn judge entered a judgment totaling $14 million following a jury trial which was marked by inconsistent rulings and patent bias in favor of the plaintiffs. The Appellate Division held that defendants were deprived of a fair trial by the cumulative effect of the lower court’s conduct, which included presenting the 4-year-old plaintiff with a box of candy in front of the jury and later giving each juror a gift when the trial broke for the holidays.
HPM&B’s lawyers, Dan Ratner and Daryl Paxson, employed a unique strategy on appeal. An exhaustive statistical analysis of the 6,000 page transcript demonstrated to the appellate court that defense counsel was admonished by the trial court on 73 occasions, while plaintiff’s counsel was admonished just 4 times, a ratio of 18:1. Their analysis also revealed that 80% of defense counsel’s objections were overruled, while in contrast plaintiff’s counsel’s objections were sustained at a similar rate of frequency. This led the appellate court to observe that the trial judge “demonstrated a propensity to admonish the defense counsel at a substantially more frequent rate than she did the plaintiffs’ counsel” and gave “the plaintiffs’ counsel significantly more leeway in cross-examining witnesses and in making extraneous comments.”