A Tale of Medical Malpractice and Revenge
The Tampa Bay Times recently ran a piece on a Florida emergency room doctor accused of medical negligence. When this doctor was hit with a medical malpractice lawsuit he was so consumed with defending his own actions that he failed to settle the suit even at the urging of his own malpractice insurance company.
Is this the story of a doctor victimized by a litigious society? Or is it the story of a man who could not admit that he was in the wrong?
Med Mal Insurance Adjuster Recommends Settlement
Medical malpractice insurance companies are not known for their victim advocacy. They tend to support their clients, read ambiguities in the evidence in favor of their client, and will not settle cases when they don’t have to. The doctor’s insurance company recommended that he settle the suit for $50,000 and move forward. But that required him to admit that he was wrong. Refusing to do so, the doctor rejected the settlement.
The Case: A Failure to Treat
In this case, the doctor got the diagnosis correct. A woman came into his emergency room with a chronically enlarged thyroid gland, also known as a goiter, among other problems. He treated the woman for pneumonia and sent her home in the belief that the goiter was not an immediate threat. She later died. Her husband sued. Thus begins the story.
There are two things worth noting here. First, the standard for plaintiffs to prove medical malpractice against emergency room doctors is higher than it is for specialists or general practitioners. This is because these doctors are forced to make split-second decisions and often have to do so with incomplete information. In other words, it’s harder to prove medical negligence against an emergency room doctor than it is other doctors.
Second, in order to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor in Florida, the attorney representing the plaintiff must be able to find a doctor who will get on the stand and say that the defendant breached a duty of care that most doctors would have rendered to a patient. In this case, the plaintiff’s attorney found an expert who had, among other achievements, testified in over 300 medical malpractice cases, mostly on behalf of accused doctors.
The doctor worked overtime attempting to clear his name. He targeted the plaintiff’s expert witness and uncovered damaging evidence against him: he had lied about his credentials and current status within the medical community. In Florida, a doctor must be a current practitioner in order to testify as a witness in a medical malpractice case.
The doctor hired to testify was brought before the medical board where they all but revoked his medical license. They did, however, bar him from testifying in future cases.
After a decade in litigation, the doctor hired a new attorney who had a personal issue with the lawyer representing the plaintiff. Although there were piles of documents that the defendant had compiled over the years, his lawyer simply revisited the original motion to dismiss: that the medical expert was unqualified to render an opinion. The case was dismissed. The doctor had won.
He did not, however, prove that he did not commit medical malpractice, but simply got the case dismissed on a procedural technicality.
Contact a Tampa Medical Malpractice Attorney
The Tampa attorneys at Palmer | Lopez have recovered millions of dollars in jury verdicts and settlements for our clients. If you’ve been injured by medical negligence, please call our firm or contact us online and we can begin discussing your options immediately.