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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, April 25, 2006

The lawsuit graveyard

One of my favorite movies of all time is Saving Private Ryan, partly because of the cool blood and gore war scenes, but mainly because of the tribute it paid to the American soldier and everything he did to preserve our freedom. One the most poignant scenes in turn is the one in which the elder Ryan wanders about the military graveyard in Normandy: rows upon rows of bleached white marble crosses, with an occasional Star of David, each cross or star bearing silent testimony of the life that was given during that awful campaign.

Wandering about military graveyards will make you ponder. You ponder the ultimate sacrifice of the soldier. You ponder that the sacrifice was surely made over the objection of the individual. You ponder how death represents the ultimate reality unless the eternal existence of the human soul is a greater reality. It provokes a terrible melancholy, and I deal with it the same way I deal with most of the great issues of our time.

I try not to think about them at all.

I'd rather think about biking, or my son's lacrosse games, or rooting for my daughter when she runs the minimarathon this weekend. I have such a melancholy personality that I fear if I ponder weighty issues too much, I'd withdraw from the pain of existence, living my days curled up in the proverbial fetal position under my bed.

One web site I visit from time to time is www.MalpracticeWeb.com. Looking for a good plaintiff's attorney? This site might just be for you. Not sure if you really want to sue your doctor? Want to get worked up about all the malpractice injustice of the world? Help yourself to the summaries of the lawsuits (I believe in the greater Chicago area) that have either been settled or have had a judgment for the plaintiff.

Pulling up these capsule summaries to me is the web equivalent of wandering about the graveyard, with each little summary representing what was a titanic clash between an aggrieved patient or his estate and his attorney and all of his expert witnesses versus the doctor and his family and his defense counsel and all the expert witnesses that they marshaled. Each represents a family in anguish, a patient in pain that won't go away, an anger that can only be quenched with a generous monetary judgment. Each represents a doctor who for three or four years looks at himself in the mirror each morning and wonders if the world wouldn't be better off if he just retired, the doctor who wishes he had made a better judgment in the middle of the night, or wasn't distracted by eighty thousand things demanding his attention causing him to miss the one detail which might have made a difference in the patient's course.

In this pediatric surgery malpractice lawsuit, the husband and wife plaintiff's claim that during bilateral inguinal hernia surgery (hernias where intestines bulge through a canal to where the testes descend) the above defendant doctors also removed E. B's left testicle and then didn't tell them about it. Dr. X settled for $75,000. This sounds like a bargain when you consider the fact that men consider testicles to be priceless. Dr. Y and Mt. St. Elsewhere Hospital were dismissed.

I suppose that this represents a bit of levity on the part of the authors, the equivalent of learning that a fallen soldier died because he mistook a claymore antipersonel device for a can of beer and tried to open it. Oops.

In her podiatry malpractice lawsuit filed in 1997, this plaintiff alleged, among other things, that on October 26, 1995, Dr. Evil performed unnecessary bunionectomies with osteotomies on both feet in spite of pre-operative x-rays that were clearly within normal limits. She claims that since the surgery she has not been able to play racquetball anymore, as she had played 3 to 4 times a month, cannot do step aerobics, cannot walk more than 1/2 mile without pain, and cannot walk around the house barefoot due to swelling and burning pain in the balls of her feet. On August 31, 2000, Dr. Evil was dismissed and his corporate entity, Dr. Evil, Ltd. made an undisclosed settlement.

I'd love to know what really happened in this one. Did the patient hound him and badger him into performing a surgery of dubious merits? Was he falling behind in alimony payments and churned a bit? Did he give up just enough money to make her go away? Once the case was dismissed, did the plaintiff use the settlement money to renew her membership at the local racquetball club? This information never shows up in this kind of capsule summary. Never will.

In his dental implant malpractice lawsuit filed on March 5, 1999, Mr. P., born in 1929, claimed that after having an allegedly negligently placed subperiosteal implant implanted into his lower jaw in 1991, dentist Dr. Nasty allegedly failed to provide proper care over the course of several years which allegedly resulted in an infection, nerve damage and bone loss that necessitated implant removal and hospitalization, and medical bills totaling over $94,000.
Dr. Nasty claimed that Mr. P., among other things, failed to maintain proper oral hygiene, used a metal pick to clean the implant when he was told not to, and delayed having the implant removed in March of 1997 when he was told to have it removed. This suit was settled for an undisclosed amount on January 9, 2003.

Let's see: the event in question happened in 1991, the lawsuit was filed in 1999 (that's a heck of a statute of limitations) and settled in 2003. Inmates on death row get a more merciful and swift execution than that. Any chance the plaintiff's attorney came up with delay after delay, leaving the dentist to twist in the wind until he was willing to give up some insurance money to make the whole mess go away?

Maybe I'll email the webmaster and suggest that they chronicle the methods the attorneys use to ply their trade. It's just a thought.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where's your malpractice suit Daddoo? :)

12:13 PM  
Blogger Val said...

I'd like to think my motto is lifted from _SPR_: "Earn this!!!"

11:41 AM  

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