In a sometimes intense hearing, testimony resumed Tuesday in a bid by defense lawyer Nancy Raynor to overturn nearly $1 million in sanctions imposed last Oct. 31 because one of her experts offered banned testimony in a medical-malpractice trial.
The witness, a trial technician who had been working for the defense team, said last week that he heard Raynor tell the expert witness, Dr. John Kelly, that Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto had banned any mention that a woman at the center of the trial was a smoker.
The technician, Joseph Chapman, who manages courtroom video displays for both plaintiff's and defense lawyers, was called to testify Tuesday by Matthew D'Annunzio, a partner at Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg L.L.P., who is fighting to keep the sanction in place.
D'Annunzio questioned Chapman on how many times he had worked with Raynor and about a tax lien against Chapman.
The questioning about the lien sparked a heated response from other lawyers, who considered it inappropriate. "There were voices raised. There were harsh words," said Clifford Haines, who was representing Chapman and the company he was a subcontractor for, Digital Justice.
From his office after the hearing, D'Annunzio declined to comment.
Raynor's attorney, Jeffrey McCarron of Swartz Campbell, called the hearing uneventful.
"The substantive portion of his testimony had concluded last week," said McCarron, who downplayed the reportedly contentious court session.
Next come filings by both sides, and then a ruling by the judge.
The case began in May 2007, when Rosalind Wilson went to Roxborough Memorial Hospital complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath. Doctors there ordered a chest X-ray and performed other tests, but never told Wilson of a suspect and possibly cancerous nodule.
Twenty months later, Wilson was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer; she died July 21, 2009. Daughter Rosalind Sutch, a Philadelphia accountant, sued the hospitals and the physicians involved in her care.
Panepinto issued the order precluding testimony on Wilson's smoking habit at the request of plaintiff's lawyers D'Annunzio and Joseph Messa, who were concerned such testimony would divert attention from the obligation of the hospital and Wilson's physicians to provide the best possible care.
Despite the banned testimony, the case proceeded to verdict, and the jury awarded the plaintiff $190,000. Panepinto overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial, finding that the introduction of the banned testimony tainted the outcome.
The plaintiff won nearly $2 million in a subsequent trial, but is seeking reimbursement for the cost of the first trial.
Besides Chapman, two other witnesses, an emergency room doctor who is a client of Raynor's and an insurance adjuster, have testified that they heard Raynor advising Kelly that smoking testimony was precluded.