Lawsuits and Medbloggers

Dr. Flea recently gave a deposition.

Charity Doc was served this week, and he runs down some of his prior suits, with a promise of more to come.  (Nine!?)

Now, Dr. Charles readies for a deposition, and his post describes (in a non-profane way) at least some of how I felt during my trips through our marvelous tort system.

Just reading those posts explains why I tell pre-meds to go into real estate.  Really.


Comments

  1. The more beneficial you are to society is directly proportional to how much you get sh*t on by society (and in healthcare, it can be literal).
    Welcome to America. Implosion is imminent.

  2. Yep… Ironically, I’m sitting here with a subpoena in my hand, happily delivered by a sheriff’s deputy not 45 minutes ago.

    And I found out yesterday that a local plaintiff’s attorney has requested records on a bad outcome (different case) I had a few months ago.

    Yes indeed… good times.

  3. But I wouldn’t recommend Real Estate right now. October housing starts plummetted, sales at 10-year low. Foreclosures have doubled even in your neck of the woods, GD. Clearly, the future is in med-mal.

  4. Make that two subpoenas today… deputy just arrived with another one. That’ll teach me to be thankful for that one this AM instead of snarking about it… at least it was just one.

    One of my anscestors must have broken into and robbed a mummy’s tomb or something…

  5. Not that it will mean anything to a bunch of whiners, but I and a number of fellow lawyers and other professionals have been sued for malpractice. It never occurred to me that I was being sh*t upon.

    By the way, were it not for the financial and other barriers erected over the years to protect medical care providers from the consequences of their errors there would be at least 5 times as many matters to whine about.

  6. That wasn’t even a very good troll… back to troll school for you.

  7. I suppose that, once you’ve made the mental transition needed to sue people (that ‘it’s not personal’ thing, a protective denial to keep from jumping out the window at what a horrible person you’ve become) that being sued in return isn’t that big a deal.

    OTOH, those who can read english and comprehend what the words in the suits mean see it as very, very personal.

  8. Greedy trial lawyer

    Have any of the lawsuits been from physicians in retribution for frivilous lawsuits and the damage it has caused both financially and emotionally? If so, have any been successful and what do you think were the keys to their success outside of jury selection and hiring a good lawyer. Has anyone ever been disbarred(sp?) for this?

  9. Greedy trial lawyer

    Have any of the lawsuits been from physicians in retribution for frivilous lawsuits and the damage it has caused both financially and emotionally? If so, have any been successful and what do you think were the keys to their success outside of jury selection and hiring a good lawyer. Has anyone ever been disbarred(sp?) for this?

  10. Don’t kid yourself Grunt, it’s very personal for the other side as well. The lawyer may be the facilitator, but to the Plaintiff it’s very personal.

    I realize you believe most malpractice lawsuits are filed by greedy people trying to get rich, but given that to get a medical malpractice award of any size you’ve normally got to have a pretty devastating injury, that’s a hard way to get wealthy. If you were sitting there having to pee through a tube because of a botched surgery for the rest of your life, and facing millions in future care plus the inability to work and the plain embarrassment of the whole thing, you’d probably find it pretty personal as well.

    While the physician may not like it, 99.9% of the time, he’s not paying any money out of his pocket, and his only inconvenience is some lost time.

    Maybe you find it to be a horrible thing to help those kind of people, but I for one don’t. After all, your insurer isn’t exactly volunteering to help them pay the bills they have as a result of your colleagues’ negligence, and neither are you or your colleague.

  11. Against my better judgment I’m going to have to reply to part of CJD’s latest offering (and I apologize to the readers for giving CJD yet another reason to respond):

    …While the physician may not like it, 99.9% of the time, he’s not paying any money out of his pocket, and his only inconvenience is some lost time.

    Uh, that’s not been my experience, nor those of the colleagues in my boat. After my only settlement my medmal insurance doubled. No, no out of pocket for me, no. (Go on about evil med-mal ins. companies; I don’t like mine either, but for now it’s a necessary evil).

    Don’t kid yourself, it’s not ‘just insurance company money’.

  12. For the record, I just finished a series of three posts on my first malpractice case, over on my blog. There’s a certain commonality of the experience…

  13. “Uh, that’s not been my experience, nor those of the colleagues in my boat. After my only settlement my medmal insurance doubled. No, no out of pocket for me, no. (Go on about evil med-mal ins. companies; I don’t like mine either, but for now it’s a necessary evil).”

    Grunt, a couple questions:

    1. How much was your settlement?
    2. Up to that date, how much had your average premiums been each year?

  14. Classic CJD:
    1. Have your assertion refuted. Ignore that, and
    2. Ask other questions designed to deflect awareness of #1.

    How much was my settlement? A hell of a lot. Until then, I was paying for a Loaded Nissan each year; now I’m buying a Big Lexus for the same coverage.

    My settlement, BTW: I was the first of 7 docs to see a patient who had a terrible, devastating outcome 5 days after I saw her (for the math impaired, seen by 6 docs with the correct diagnosis, made by me). 2 days after I made her diagnosis she saw a neurosurgeon. She refused immediate neurosurgery that was recommended, and had a terrible outcome 2 days after that.

    The initial suit named only the neurosurgeon, but was expanded when the NS’s coverage was discovered to be only 250K, then it was sue everyone even near the chart. Want to guess which of the docs had the biggest coverage? Yeah.

    My ins. company buckled under jury fear, as I had the same insurer as the neurosurgeon and one of the other defendant ED docs (who also did no wrong). They told me flat out that a) I did nothing wrong and b) they were terrified a jury would punish all of us sitting st the table with the NS, and were unwilling to split us out. So, big settlement (all of us), my premium doubles, I get to report this for the rest of my career. You try to tell people reading here it doesn’t cost docs anything.

    (I feel really terrible for my patient, to interrupt your ‘you care only about yourself’ thoughts. Had my patient heeded any of the warnings given there was a very dangerous and potentially debilitating surgery needed, but probably not the near-vegetative state that resulted from their refusal of surgery when recommended).

    So, I think I got screwed by a plaintiff’s attorney out to villianize everyone to maximize payouts (worked) and my insurance company, who chickened out.

    It’s personal to me.

  15. Sorry, didn’t mean to ignore your assertion. You are absolutely right, your premium doubled. Of course, since we don’t know what it doubled to, and given that malpractice premiums typically constitute less than 5% of a physician’s overhead, it still pales in comparison to the financial distress of the victim.

    As for your insurer, while you may call it “jury fear”, I doubt that. Why would they have fear, given that they win far more often than not at trial? Insurers don’t make money by paying out. The insurer more than likely saw that one of you had committed malpractice, but none of you were willing to admit it.

    It’s personal to you and all it cost you was some money, and a small fraction of your gross at that. Think how personal it is to the patient. It’s not the plaintiff’s lawyer’s fault that you had to pay for the malpractice your insurer thought you committed. After all, you and your insurer (or whoever the negligent party was) wasn’t volunteering to right the wrong you (or one of the others) committed before the patient got a lawyer, were you?

    You guys think that victims of malpractice WANT to hire a lawyer, go through multiple years of waiting on a trial, endure a deposition themselves where they are accused of faking and exaggerating their injuries, all while being hounded by bill collectors because they are unable to work and unable to afford additional care? You think they wouldn’t rather shorten the whole process and not have to pay a lawyer?

    Your claim is against your insurer, who had an impermissible conflict, and an idiot for an adjuster if he told you that. You should read your policy as many physicians have the authority in their policy to refuse to settle. Your failure to do so should not.

    The reason I ask about your premium amounts? Because if your insurer had been making money off yours (and all those other physicians) premiums and the investment income and the total equaled what they paid out, why would your insurance double?

    But don’t let logic get in the way of demonizing the patient and their lawyer.

  16. Sorry for the sentence fragment. It should say “Your failure to read your insurance policy isn’t the fault of anyone but you. It’s certainly not the plaintiff’s or their attorney’s fault.”

  17. Read it. Not my call, but thanks for the insult, just the same.

  18. Out of pocket losses should include shifts lost to pretrial meetings with attorneys, required pretrial depositions and mediations, and repeatedly postponed trial dates. I would suggest that there is also probably an element of lost productivity due to the increased stress, decreased sleep, and increase in time-consuming CYA workups that often follow malpractice lawsuits.

  19. “Read it. Not my call, but thanks for the insult, just the same.”

    Why would it not be your call, unless you get your insurance through your employer? In that case, if your premium doubled, then it shouldn’t be any money out of your pocket? Or do you mean you read it and agreed to it?

  20. “Out of pocket losses should include shifts lost to pretrial meetings with attorneys, required pretrial depositions and mediations, and repeatedly postponed trial dates”

    Considering trial dates are frequently postponed by the court with no say of the attorneys, are the taxpayers going to pay those losses? Should we also compensate physicians for the time spent having to pay taxes, go renew their driver’s licenses, etc.?

    If you don’t want to meet with your attorney, you don’t have to. If you don’t want to go to a deposition or mediation, then settle. If your insurer won’t, then your problem is with them.

  21. “Considering trial dates are frequently postponed by the court with no say of the attorneys, are the taxpayers going to pay those losses? Should we also compensate physicians for the time spent having to pay taxes, go renew their driver’s licenses, etc.?

    If you don’t want to meet with your attorney, you don’t have to. If you don’t want to go to a deposition or mediation, then settle. If your insurer won’t, then your problem is with them.”

    None of that refutes my assertion that getting sued does indeed cause us to have direct out-of pocket expenses. I have to pay taxes and renew my drivers license whether or not I get sued. No matter whose fault the postponement is (the judge, the plaintiff attorney, the defense attorney, the insurer) it doesn’t matter.

    Not meet with my defense attorney or go to depositions? I would suspect that the insurer could make me fully responsible for the settlement amount if I didn’t cooperate with my own defense.

  22. “None of that refutes my assertion that getting sued does indeed cause us to have direct out-of pocket expenses.”

    Not necessarily. Unless we know how much time you spend doing recreational activities, we have no idea what you might otherwise be doing. If it took up what would normally be your vacation or tee times, it’s not a direct out-of-pocket expense at all.

    You don’t HAVE to get a drivers’ license. That’s your choice. When you get a traffic ticket, even if you think it is unjust, should you be compensated by the police for having to fight it?

  23. CJD

    Why don’t you tell them what the typical cut is for a plaintiff’s lawyer in med mal case. That ought to garner some sympathy for your plaintiff.

  24. So as an outsider on this discussion I have to go back to one thing… And I’ll remind that I’m not only a nurse who works hard at this profession, but I’m also a patient who has personally suffered permanent things at the hands of mistakes – none of which I have ever sued for. They aren’t huge and they aren’t preventing me from living my life, but I’ve had to make adjustments and some scary things have happened in the past. Only saying that to put in perspective that I am personally coming from a few different angles…

    In the case that GD describes…he made the correct diagnosis and the patient then sees 6 doctors and refuses the advice of a neurosurgeon and a bad outcome occurs. The patient sues, and then the plaintiff’s lawyer realizes that the neurosurgeon’s insurance won’t pay as much as they would like, so they nab the 6 other doctors who had seen this woman relating to this diagnosis.

    But the patient personally decided to reject the surgery.

    I’m sorry, but if I ever decline to have a surgery that a neurosurgeon tells me that I absolutely must have, and then something bad happens….whose fault is it? I’m pretty sure that it would be my fault for deciding to just decline the surgery against heavy recommendation – even though it isn’t my fault in the first place for getting sick. I mean, what’s a neurosurgeon to do? Get a restraining order and force the patient to undergo brain surgery against their will? Is that the only thing that would stop the madness in this case?

    Somebody enlighten me because I don’t get it. If a doc recommends a life-saving treatment and the patient refuses but then something bad happens, I don’t see how anybody else can be at fault except for the patient for declining. (And even then, I probably wouldn’t say patient fault…but rather, NOT physician fault) We’re still a society of free will and even though we don’t know the entire case (which I’m sure will be brought up by the other side to dispute my entire post here), it sounds as if the woman was of sound mind. To me, the entire thing sounds like she was out for gold. And no, she didn’t fake her condition just to get rich. Probably didn’t even refuse the neurosurgery in order to get rich. But she did refuse and something bad happened and she saw an opportunity to go in for the kill.

    Yes, I empathize very heavily with patients. I even feel badly for that particular patient as I’m sure she went through a great deal. But worthy of a lawsuit? Based on the information presented, I don’t see how….

    Take care,
    Carrie

  25. Classic CJD:
    #3: Ignore the clearly outlined cost to me (a sued physician) which has refuted his original idiotic statement, then
    #4: Go after a different commenter about ephemera (‘vacation tee-times’).

    There’s a reason, CJD, that I don’t tell you the actual numbers of my medmal cost and my income, and it’s because it will never matter to you, you don’t care; it’s just fodder for the never-ending arguing machine, with some class-envy thrown in for your entertainment.

    Besides, you’ll just explain it away, or ‘gee the plaintiff doesn’t make that’, or somesuch which completely a) ignores the underlying injustice and b) is a fun straw man to attack.

    Oh, my other suits were pure jackpot-chasing crap, and were dismissed with prejudice.

  26. “Why don’t you tell them what the typical cut is for a plaintiff’s lawyer in med mal case. That ought to garner some sympathy for your plaintiff.”

    It’s 1/3 to 1/2 of the total cut or they can hire someone hourly. Why, what should it be based on your experience with the complexity of the case, the hours involved, and the financial risk to the attorney?

    And why would that diminish how bad you feel for the plaintiff? It’s not like they want to have to go to an attorney.

  27. “#3: Ignore the clearly outlined cost to me (a sued physician) which has refuted his original idiotic statement, then”

    I’m starting to wonder if you can read. I acknowledged the error in that statement, but of course it appears since you have no control over your insurance policy perhaps you don’t pay the premiums at all.

    The reason you don’t want to say is the reason physicians in this debate always only want to talk about everyone else’s financial interest. Your lack of candor about your own financial affairs while chastising everyone else is revealing. The facts are that the cost of a physician’s malpractice insurance is typically less than 5% of their overhead.

    “#4: Go after a different commenter about ephemera (‘vacation tee-times’).”

    The commenter is asking for reimbursement for lost time. We’re discussing why he should or should not get paid by people who have no control over the process. Sorry you don’t understand but that doesn’t mean it’s not a relevant discussion.

    The only strawman being presented here is yours, where you blame the injured patient and their lawyer because you didn’t read your insurance policy. And because the party who had committed malpractice wouldn’t step up to the plate.

    The only “underlying injustice” is that you would arbitrarily limit the value of a case you’ve never heard the facts on to (hopefully) save a few dollars on your malpractice premiums.

  28. CJD, I think you missed my point. A plaintiff’s attorney takes home 1/2 of whatever is awarded to the plaintiff. That’s when I start sympathizing with your truly injured plaintiff.

  29. Arguing with attorneys is fun.

    “When you get a traffic ticket, even if you think it is unjust, should you be compensated by the police for having to fight it?”

    Who said that I should be? When I get a traffic ticket, I suffer out-of pocket expenses too, just like in a malpractice suit. You are attempting to change the subject by claiming that we think we should be compensated for our expenses. Obviously then, you must agree that we do in fact suffer out-of-pocket expenses from lawsuits, but you haven’t bothered to admit it yet.

    I might as well dispute your other assertion that since malpractice premiums represent a small percentage of our “overhead” that everything is just fine and dandy. “Cost of doing business” and all that. 5% must be a negligible amount to someone who takes 33-50% from his clients, but to most of us it is significant. I’ll dispute the 5% number while I’m at it. Do you have references for that number?

  30. But don’t let logic get in the way of demonizing the patient and their lawyer.

    Irrelevant… GD’s insurance situation does not change the fact that the patient chose poorly, and had a bad outcome… nobody to blame but herself, and the lawyer who took that case undoubtedly knew that. She shouldn’t be demonized for pulling a courtroom stickup (with her attorney as the getaway driver)? Her attorney shouldn’t be demonized for roping in every physician he could to increase his payout, regardless of whether they did anything wrong?

    It’s GD’s fault because his insurance company chose not to gamble on a potentially-sympathetic jury?

    *spit*

    I’ve still not seen you condemn the name-every-doc-on-the-chart-to-get-more-money gambit, nor have I seen you condemn the legal extortion from the patient who got herself hurt for failing to take the proferred medical advice.

    I know, I know… it’s all about the noble “getting money for the poor injured plaintiff” meme for you, because you come back to that every single time. It’s your fig leaf.

    I can understand the motivation of people trying to get money to cover their expenses (and compensate for future uninsurability)… but I don’t have to like it, particularly when they try to shift the responsibility onto me. That’s a personal affront, and a huge financial cost to everyone involved. Unethical plaintiff’s attorneys that take such nonsense cases are nothing but hired assassins assisting in legal armed robbery for a cut of the loot. I’m sorry you don’t like that, but it’s true.

    Your lack of candor about your own financial affairs while chastising everyone else is revealing. The facts are that the cost of a physician’s malpractice insurance is typically less than 5% of their overhead.

    Irrelevant… but nice insinuation, Matt… *golf clap* I’m looking at 70K in malpractice premiums this year… now go compare that to the average ER doc’s income.

    All of the docs here acknowledge that malpractice does occur, but there’s more than one victim in many malpractice cases. The fact that you can never seem to acknowledge that (your “lack of candor”) tells everyone here everything they need to know about you.

    I love you, Matt… please don’t ever go away. You’re such a caricature it’s hilarious.

  31. “CJD, I think you missed my point. A plaintiff’s attorney takes home 1/2 of whatever is awarded to the plaintiff. That’s when I start sympathizing with your truly injured plaintiff. ”

    Actually, they take between 1/3 and 1/2 depending on the contract and the stage of litigation. Why do you sympathize then? Were you not sympathizing when your carrier was shutting them out regardless of merit?

  32. “Obviously then, you must agree that we do in fact suffer out-of-pocket expenses from lawsuits, but you haven’t bothered to admit it yet.”

    Unless I know what you do with all your time, I have no idea. You may golf every Wednesday, or spend three weeks in Vail every Christmas. If you miss those times, then no, I don’t think you are out any out of pocket expenses.

    “5% must be a negligible amount to someone who takes 33-50% from his clients, but to most of us it is significant.”

    If by “takes” you mean earns that much as a result of the work he did, I guess you’re correct. But your comparison doesn’t make much sense. As for the 5% figure, it came from the CME, during their ’03 or ’04 debate on reimbursement rates. The discussion transcript is online.

  33. New Guy, you’re a sweet kid, but you need to work on the reading comprehension.

    “It’s GD’s fault because his insurance company chose not to gamble on a potentially-sympathetic jury?”

    No, it’s his fault for not reading his policy and making sure he had the right to object to a settlement.

    ” still not seen you condemn the name-every-doc-on-the-chart-to-get-more-money gambit, nor have I seen you condemn the legal extortion from the patient who got herself hurt for failing to take the proferred medical advice.”

    Unlike you, I don’t think I know all the facts of a case because I’ve heard one relatively brief side of the story. Having dealt with many, many insurers in my life, I can tell you they don’t hand out large sums of money without some liability. They do their own internal assessments of cases, with their own experts, and they usually adequately assess the risk. So I’d bet there is a LITTLE more to the story than just Grunt’s version. For example, perhaps the neurosurgeon pointed the finger at everyone else. Well, if he is going to do that, the attorney has a duty to file suit against those parties as they may well be responsible. Just like you can’t diagnose a disease based on one paragraph generally, you typically can’t diagnose malpractice based on that little info either.

    “I’m looking at 70K in malpractice premiums this year… now go compare that to the average ER doc’s income.”

    Who is your carrier? What state are you in? What’s your income? You’re eager to tell me your expenses, but you don’t want to tell anything else. Donald Trump’s insurance bill is probably $10 million or more. If I only knew that about him, should I feel terribly sympathetic?

    “Unethical plaintiff’s attorneys that take such nonsense cases are nothing but hired assassins assisting in legal armed robbery for a cut of the loot. I’m sorry you don’t like that, but it’s true.”

    Considering that you know literally nothing about 99% of all cases filed, your opinion on the subject is, shall we say, lacking a sound basis. Have you ever even dealt with an insurance company? You do know how they work, don’t you? You don’t “steal” anything from them. The vast majority of the time you work for everything you get. Do you really think people with large med mal awards WANT them? That they wouldn’t rather have their health back? Do you know what kind of injury it takes to have a million dollar case usually? I bet you wouldn’t trade places with many of them for the benefits of their “armed robbery”.

    “All of the docs here acknowledge that malpractice does occur, but there’s more than one victim in many malpractice cases. ”

    As do I. Althought I will dispute the level of “victimhood”. And I know that you know malpractice does occur, I just don’t think you appreciate how often and how hard it is for the victim to get compensation for it so they can even pay the money back into the healthcare system for their future care. Do you think the games insurers play with your reimbursement don’t happen anywhere else?

    “You’re such a caricature it’s hilarious.”

    Pot, meet kettle. Seriously, though, I would be happy if you would just educate yourself on what it’s like for the victim of malpractice to be faced with a stonewalling doctor and hospital, an insurer who won’t pay regardless, mounting medical bills and daily living expenses, and the loss of function caused by the injury, and stop trying to make it even harder for them to get what is rightfully owed to them.

    Because I know you don’t believe it, but it could very easily be you in their place. And no, the insurer isn’t going to treat you any differently.