Punk Rock Ob-Gyn Gives Juror CPR, Gets Med Mal Mistrial

Law360 (March 27, 2018, 9:10 PM EDT) -- Facing the first day of a medical malpractice trial on Tuesday, a San Jose obstetrician-gynecologist who once drummed for The Offspring proved his punk rock bona fides rushing to the aid of a prospective juror in cardiac arrest, delivering CPR but forcing a mistrial over concerns his medical heroics could bias jurors in his favor.

The incident occurred during a morning break in the trial in Oakland, California, against Dr. James Lilja, who is certified as a gynecological oncologist and was the drummer for The Offspring in the mid-1980s. (Getty)

The incident occurred during a morning break in the trial in Oakland, California, against Dr. James Lilja, who is certified as a gynecological oncologist and was the drummer for The Offspring in the mid-1980s. Stephenie Sargiotto and her husband, John, accuse the doctor of negligently treating her.

The prospective juror was waiting alongside more than 35 others to be called back inside the courtroom to continue the second day of the jury selection process when he collapsed, hit his head and lost consciousness.

Bystanders called 911 and someone went into the courtroom, where Lilja was sitting with his attorney and his nurse assistant, to inform them that there was a medical emergency. Lilja and the nurse rushed to the scene and took the man’s vitals.

The prospective juror wasn't breathing and had no pulse, according to the nurse and Lilja who later spoke to Law360. Lilja put on gloves and the pair began giving the man CPR, administering shocks twice with an automated external defibrillator, until paramedics arrived. The man didn't regain consciousness, but the paramedics said he had a pulse when he was rolled out of the building on a stretcher.

After the incident, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Robert G. Schock, asked Alameda Superior Court Judge Ronni MacLaren to order a mistrial, arguing that all of the potential jurors witnessed Lilja help the man and that they are now biased against his clients.

Lilja's attorney, Barry C. Marsh of Hinshaw Marsh Still & Hinshaw LLP, opposed the mistrial motion, arguing that they could at least ask the jury pool if the incident impacted their opinion of Lilja before bringing in more than 60 new jurors.

Judge MacLaren commended Lilja and the nurse for potentially saving the prospective juror's life and noted that it was an extraordinary situation. But she said she thinks all of the jurors have likely been impacted by the day’s events and the bias is “incurable.”

The judge excused all of the jurors and set jury selection to begin in a new trial April 2.

Marsh later told Law360 that he thinks the judge’s ruling was appropriate considering what happened. He also praised Lilja and the nurse for putting aside litigation and honoring their Hippocratic Oath by helping someone in need, even though the mistrial delays the resolution of the case.

The Sargiottos filed their five-page complaint against Lilja in October 2016. The couple told Law360 on Tuesday that they weren't aware that he had once played with The Offspring, which was formed in 1984 and earned mainstream success in the 1990s.

Lilja performed with the band between 1984 and 1987 and played on their debut album before going to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, according to the band’s website. He also co-wrote the song "Beheaded," which appeared on the band’s self-titled album that has won multiple music industry awards, the site said. Since 1984, The Offspring has released nine studio albums and sold more than 36 million albums worldwide, it said.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” Lilja said when he heard that there was likely going to be a mistrial because he helped the potential juror.

The Sargiottos were represented by Robert G. Schock.

Lilja was represented by Barry C. Marsh of Hinshaw Marsh Still & Hinshaw LLP.

The case is Sargiotto v. Lilja, case number RG16836470, in the Superior Court of the state of California, County of Alameda.

--Editing by Dipti Coorg.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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