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How does Challenge for Cause Work during Jury Selection in a Medical Malpractice Case

The process of empanelling a jury is one of the most important pre-trial processes for any lawyer. The techniques of choosing jury members from the venire pool, known as voir dire in legal parlance, is taught to law students so that they can use it effectively in all their cases. One of the techniques used in the selection process is the 'challenge for cause'. It is an effective method that medical malpractice lawyers can use to screen potential jurors before empanelling.

Jury Member Is Familiar With The Injury

Let's take an example of a case where the plaintiff has filed a lawsuit against her doctor for failure to diagnose her breast cancer at an early stage. The jurors are told during the course of the selection process about the medical history of the plaintiff and the nature of the injury for which the lawsuit has been filed, and one of the jurors raises her hand to say that she is familiar with the nature of the injury. Perhaps, she too had once been diagnosed with breast cancer and knows the ins and outs of the treatment process. So, the defense attorneys along with the prosecution lawyers go outside to have a talk with this potential juror.

It may happen that the juror's injury was diagnosed correctly and she underwent the recommended therapy. So the prosecution lawyer may want to question her on her knowledge of the diagnosis process, the chemotherapy and treatment requirements and given her answers may want to keep her in the empanelled jury as she would be able to understand the intricacies of the case well.

A Pre-Existing Grudge

On the other hand, if the juror says that she had a similar case of misdiagnosis and may be prejudiced towards the client who too is suffering because of a similar botched diagnosis, the defense lawyers may not want her on the final jury list as she will be biased against the defendant. In such a case, the defense lawyer can ask the judge to excuse the juror on the grounds that they have undue affinity towards the plaintiff and will probably go out of their way to make a judgment against their own client, the doctor who is the defendant in this case.

Using The 'Challenge For Cause' To Remove A Potential Juror

Based on the juror's answers to their questions the defending lawyers have two options-they can either use one of their preemptive challenges to dismiss this juror from the final empanelled jury list, or they can ask the judge to use the 'challenge for cause' motion to have the juror excuse themselves. Challenge for cause can be used in any instance when it is believed that a particular juror cannot be believed to be fair in the course of the trial, or if the juror is incapable of serving in the position offered him. If enough reason for the juror's removal from the trial is shown, then the judge can ask the juror to excuse themselves from the trial.

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