WILKES-BARRE — The third day of testimony in the medical malpractice trial over a young doctor’s sudden death got off to a contentious start Friday as lawyers clashed over accusations a witness ignored a judge’s order not to speak to her attorneys.
Dr. Jennifer Sidari, 26, died in 2013 at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville of complications from a blood clot in her brain. Her parents, Peter and Patricia Sidari, filed a lawsuit in 2014 against Geisinger, claiming the health care provider administered substandard care to Sidari.
As testimony of Dr. Jessica Zingaretti resumed Friday morning, Sidari family attorney Matt Casey abruptly asked whether the doctor had spoken to any lawyers Thursday night. Zingaretti was the attending physician on May 28, 2013, the day before Sidari died.
Zingaretti, who was on the stand Thursday when proceedings ended for the day, acknowledged she spoke to Geisinger attorney Anna M. Bryan, who Casey noted was sitting in the third row of the courtroom and had been present Thursday during Zingaretti’s testimony.
“We don’t need these dramatics in front of the jury,” Geisinger attorney Joseph Farchione said following an objection.
After jurors were given a five minute break by Luzerne County Judge Lesa S. Gelb, Zingaretti denied talking about her testimony or discussing details of the case with Bryan when questioned by the judge.
Casey argued Zingaretti’s alleged actions were “deadly serious.”
“She had an order from the court not to talk to a lawyer,” he said.” And she violated it.”
Farchione argued the rule extended by the judge Thursday stated Zingaretti could not discuss her testimony with any lawyers, not that she couldn’t have discussions that involve personal issues, family issues, the ride home or anything else discussed between Zingaretti and counsel.
“The court’s direction was strictly testimony,” Farchione said, adding that Casey “tainted the jury” by making an inference in front of the panel without proof.
Geisinger’s lawyers were “clouding the rules intentionally,” Casey said.
“Something should be done about this because she changed her testimony this morning and it is strangely coincidental that she had a conversation with her lawyer last night,” he added.
When the jury returned to the courtroom, Gelb instructed the panel that Zingaretti did not discuss testimony with her lawyer and did nothing improper.
Zingaretti remains on the witness stand.
Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL