Disclaimer

This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Sucky

Boss Dude sent me to the courthouse this morning to watch a med mal trial, which was oodles of fun and most educational. He wanted me to scope out the defense attorney we occasionally have cases with, and also observe the judge. The case was against two family practice docs for failure to diagnose (heart disease). This dude goes to see these docs, on two different occasions, complaining of neck and shoulder pain, which radiates down his left arm and also has numbness. They both diagnosed him with degenerative disc disease and sent him home with some painkillers. He dropped dead in a field not too long later. Ergo, the lawsuit.

Neither attorney is exactly local, but both practice in the area frequently. I was underwhelmed by Plaintiff's lead counsel. He seemed nice enough when I met him, but I think the Douchebag Gene gets triggered in trial for some people. Anyway, his opening was all over the place, it was like he couldn't figure out what the trial was about, and then he finally got there, but it was way too late. His use of exhibits during opening was distracting, there was no continuity. There was one juror who was already nodding off by the end of it. Then he gets one of the defendants on the stand, this mousy little woman in her 50's, who is about as soft-spoken and meek as they come, and he completely makes an ass of himself by ripping into her, badgering her for lying during her deposition because she got a small collateral detail wrong. Like, dude, this is not The Practice, and you are not Dylan McDermott, take it down a notch. That's one of the first things they tell us about cross-examination: don't take a pleasant, sympathetic witness and bully them so much that the jury hates you and feels sorry for the witness. I saw five different jurors looking at him as though he'd just kicked a puppy. The judge finally told him to move on. At that point, I called a defense verdict.

There was also this exchange about risk factors for heart disease. The attorney was writing each one down on one of those big papers displayed on an easel, as they went through them. He starts with this:

Lawyer Dude: The patient was a *male*, wasn't he?
Doctor Chick: Uh. Yes.
Lawyer Dude: You'd agree that being male is a risk factor for heart disease, wouldn't you?
Doctor Chick: Yes...
Lawyer Dude: Ah ha! [goes and writes down "MALE" under "Risk Factors" on his paper]

Doctor Chick's looking at him slightly stupefied, like he just stuck a banana in his ear. Lawyer Dude is grinning like he just got her to admit that she killed Mr. Body in the conservatory with the candlestick. It was all kinds of comical. I'm also sitting there thinking that I read somewhere that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, and that more women than men die of heart disease, so therefore, wouldn't being a *woman* be a risk factor too? Yep.

Anyway. I'm being pretty hard on the guy, but in all fairness, it wasn't a great case to begin with, and failure to diagnose cases are hard enough as it is. All I know is that the jury sure didn't look convinced of any malpractice, and while the plaintiff's attorney *did* do a very good job in hitting the important points, he missed the most important one, which is not making the jury totally hate you.

The defense attorney, on the other hand, was phenomenal. She is poised and calm, while opposing counsel kept flipping through notes and shuffling exhibits and shouting at mousy little doctors. She's well-spoken and thorough, and her style is exactly what I want mine to be. But I do think she could have been a little more personable with the jury. Being a defense attorney, you run the risk of being too detached and clinical, with the jury thinking you just don't care about the guy who dropped dead in a field because his doctors didn't notice that, even though he was an overweight 50-year-old with elevated blood pressure and slightly high cholesterol, he was a heart attack waiting to happen.

Of course, you never really know what juries will do. I'll be interested to find out what the verdict is. The trial is still going on, but I'm not going to finish watching it. Boss Dude is out tomorrow, so I'm going to take the opportunity of having a (hopefully) uneventful day to finish up the assignments I've got going on. I worked until 7pm tonight, and I'll probably do the same tomorrow, to get stuff caught up. Regardless, it was a really interesting experience, since the only trials I've really seen have been criminal ones. And even though I worked in insurance defense for 5 years, I'd never once seen a trial because my bosses had never gone. I might actually be the killer of trials. Perhaps that makes me a good luck charm for settlement, but yeah, I apparently kill trials. We've had two cases with rapidly approaching trial dates settle out just in the three weeks I've been here. All my criminal trials got canceled at the prosecutor's office. All the cases I ever prepped for trial for insurance defense firms always settled out. No fun.

Anyway, it's a long week for me. The longest I've been away from Cora since the job started, which is 3 days. It totally sucks, and I miss her horribly. But I didn't bring her with me to Small Town this week, because I wouldn't have gotten to spend much time with her Tuesday evening anyway. I stayed Monday night at the house, and left at 6:30 Tuesday morning to make the 2 hour drive to work. It wasn't too bad. I will probably do that more frequently so I can actually spend time with Husband. Suckily, Husband finally got his clinical schedule, and in order to get his hours in, he has to be there four days during the week. He works Sunday nights and sleeps Monday all day, so Tuesday through Friday, he has clinicals. Which means he can't come out here to visit at all. Which means I only get Friday evenings with him, and I see him Saturday and Sunday mornings. His clinicals will end mid-November, so it's only for the next two months or so, but it sucks. I hate it, it sucks. And Spring will be even worse.

There are days I doubt my ability to live this way. Cora will never remember being without me for two days a week, and without her dad for two days. But I'll remember. Of course, when I start missing her too bad, I just consider how she's currently teething and spent a considerable amount of time screaming at Husband yesterday. Damn, sorry I missed that! But I worry (needlessly) about next year. Husband's been looking for a job, and hasn't had any luck. I really love my job, I like the area, and I don't want to leave. So, we'll have big decisions to make if he doesn't find a job out here. Sucks. I hate big decisions.

1 comment:

Cee said...

Being away from my baby is my #1 (basically my only concern) about working in the legal profession. I don't know how it will play out and it seems like it will be so hard! I'm sure you'll have some easier days than others. But it sounds like you are having a fantastic time at work!