The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has assessed a $946,197.16 fine against attorney Nancy Raynor and Raynor & Associates, P.C.

The sanction stemmed from Raynor’s questioning of an expert witness in a medical malpractice case. Raynor represented the doctor and a physician group accused of failing to timely diagnose decedent’s lung cancer. Prior to trial, the court had issued an order precluding the defendants from, “presenting any evidence, testimony and/or argument regarding decedent’s smoking history.”

Just before opening arguments, the court again addressed the issue of decedent’s smoking history, and before Raynor’s opening statement, plaintiff’s counsel sought the court’s assurance that Defendant’s counsel had “[spoken] to their expert witnesses before they get on the stand and make it clear that they’re not to raise the issue, blurt it out, volunteer it, etc.” The court assured plaintiff’s counsel that Raynor knew the rules and had been advised of the need to speak with witnesses about the restriction on their testimony.

In spite of the evidentiary prohibition, when Raynor asked her medical expert whether the decedent had any cardiac risk factors, the expert responded, “The patient was a smoker. The patient was hypertensive. So yes, I mean, those are big risk factors.” When questioned by the judge, the witness stated that Defense counsel had not instructed him with respect to discussing the decedent’s smoking history.

After trial, plaintiff filed a motion seeking a new trial and sanctions. After a hearing and additional evidence, the court believed that the expert witness’s claim had never been told not to mention decedent’s smoking history, and that Raynor should be sanctioned. The court awarded plaintiff $946,197.16, the entire costs of the new trial necessitated by the inappropriate testimony.

Raynor has appealed.

ABA coverage is here, with commentary and a link to the trial court decision:http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/litigationnews/top_stories/052715-sanction-mistrial.html

Appellate docket is here: https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/AppellateCourtReport.ashx?docketNumber=3494+EDA+2014