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So many lawyers, so little time...

"The prospect of hanging focuses the mind wonderfully"--Samuel Johnson

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Location: Louisville, KY, United States

Gastroenterologist, cyclist, cellist, Christian, husband, father, grandfather.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Expert witness

I've finished up ahead of time at the hospital, and now have a choice between bloging a little or going back to the office to do administrative work. Tough choice.

In a lawsuit the plaintiff's lawyer lines up the Expert Witness, someone who can testifiy that whatever you did was negligent. If the case is weak, ie. not worth a lot of money to the lawyer, or if the lawyer if low-rent, the Expert is someone listed in a publication of hired guns. If the case is worth a lot and if the lawyer is well-funded and willing to invest the money, the Expert is a National Authority from a Major University or Teaching Center.

The Expert Witness, even the National Authority, doesn't necessarily have to be a very good clinician. It's probably a hindrance for him to be any clinician at all, as patient care diverts the Authority from his research time to things not helpful at all to his career, ie. counseling patients and families, answering phone calls in the middle of the night, and other drudgery. That's what the trainees under him are for.

My most recent lawsuit was complex and potentially worth a lot of money, so both sides lined up experts with national reputations. The plaintiff's expert had an imposing resume, with well over fifty publications listed on his CV. My expert was a gentleman I had seen at lectures and was well-known for his clinical expertise.

My expert's opinion of the Plaintiff's expert was interesting indeed. "Aw hell", he scoffed. "I know this guy. He hasn't seen a patient in at least five years. He's only a researcher".

This comment was not lost upon my attorney. At deposition the plaintiff's expert acknowledged that he saw patients one afternoon every six weeks, only after they had been screened by the doctors in training.

That's one of the strengths of the American tort system: the right to trial by your peers.

To be continued.


Blogger Gorilla said...

Upon reading your entry "Expert witness" and your favorite doctor joke, I'm reminded of a line from a Clint Eastwood movie:
"Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one."
My corollary to Mr. Eastwood's line:
"Since opinions are like assholes and everybody has one, people can't express their opinions in a court of law. However, some of us are recognized as experts in our given field and entitled to express our opinions in court. So, does that mean we are expert assholes?"
After hearing some experts who are nothing but "hired guns", I'm inclined to believe my corollary is correct.

9:20 AM  

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