Jury says doctors are not to blame
Jurors said there was negligence by the hospital but it didn't cause the deaths.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Psychiatric doctors and nurses at Forum Health's Northside Medical Center were not responsible for the deaths of 3-year-old twins Jonathan and Rebecca Giancola.
That's what a jury ruled late Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. The five-man, three-woman panel deliberated nine hours Thursday and eight hours Friday before returning the verdicts.
While the jury found there was some negligence on Forum's part in its care for the children's mother, Annette Giancola, during her four-day stay in the psychiatric unit in October 1996, that negligence did not contribute to the children's deaths.
Annette Giancola drowned her children in March 1997 in the bathtub of the family's former home in Canfield Township. She had been a patient at Northside some five months earlier.
Her then-husband, John Giancola, sued Forum and four doctors, arguing they were negligent in her care. Two of the doctors settled out of court before the trial, and two were dismissed from the lawsuit.
No violent propensities
The jury ruled there was no evidence that Annette Giancola showed violent propensities while she was hospitalized and there was no reason for doctors or nurses there to suspect that she would become violent after her release.
"I think they made the right decision," said Atty. Marshall Buck, who said he was disappointed that the jury found any negligence at all on the part of the hospital's nursing staff.
"I think those nurses did terrific work," Buck said.
He said Annette Giancola was taken to the hospital for observation because of suicidal tendencies and that's what the nurses focused on. They could not delve into her psychosis because Annette would not open up and talk to them, he said.
Ex-husband not negligent
Buck had argued that John Giancola should shoulder some of the blame for his children's deaths. He said Giancola should have known that his wife was a danger to their children and taken steps to protect them.
The jury ruled that John Giancola was negligent, but that his negligence did not contribute to the deaths. John Giancola heaved a sigh of relief upon hearing that part of the verdict.
He left the courthouse alone immediately the verdict.
Giancola's attorney, Skip Simpson of Dallas, was disappointed at the outcome.
"But we respect what a jury does," he said. "We always have and we always will."
Annette Giancola did not attend the trial. She was charged with two counts of aggravated murder and found innocent by reason of insanity in June 1998. She has been confined to a psychiatric institution since then.