Sue and Tom looked at the litigation process from the commencement of a medical malpractice lawsuit, through discovery, through the trial, through the verdict and then to the potential appeal. At each step of the process, Sue and Tom explained the protections afforded to a defendant physician by the law. More importantly, they next described how in certain circumstances these protections are seemingly eroded in practice by other aspects of the law or by judicial decisions.
As an example, Sue and Tom talked about the protections afforded to medical malpractice defendants by a 2.5 year statute of limitations. This protection can in certain circumstances seem to disappear however in the event a physician is impleaded years later by another defendant or by application of the relation back doctrine. In a recent case in our office, two physicians were added as defendants in the case 10 years after the event in question!
Sue and Tom stressed the need for good communication between the attorney and the client to lessen the feeling of frustration during litigation when some of these protections seem to become ineffective. This is especially so when a judge rules against what the defense feels is a meritorious argument. It was stressed that the defense counsel and the client are on the same team and both need to work closely together to achieve their common goal.
The program ended with a discussion of a wrongful death lawsuit that was prompted by an erroneous conclusion by a medical examiner on autopsy. Clearly, the plaintiffs theory of the case based on the conclusions in the autopsy made no sense medically. It was demonstrated how the intraoperative fluoroscopy was a key element in unraveling the confusion caused by the medical examiner and resulted in a defense verdict.
By the end of the program, the radiologists in attendance had a better appreciation of the complexities that can arise in defending medical malpractice cases both from the legal side of the house and even from their own medical colleagues.