April 30, 2012, ERIE, PA — An Erie medical malpractice case exposed dishonest litigation tactics by doctors and a local hospital and resulted in over $70,000.00 in sanctions against both. The case reveals just how far doctors and hospitals will go to defend claims.
According to published reports, Dr. Mark Townsend, Lake Erie Women’s Center and UPMC-Hamot were sued over an injury to a baby in child-birth. All of the defendants were asked about specific protocols that were in place at the time of the injury and all of them specifically denied that such policies existed. The case actually went to trial not once but twice and the entire time the doctors and hospital in the Erie medical error case maintained their claim that no such protocol existed. Fortunately for the plaintiffs, both Pennsylvania birth injury trials ended in mistrial and so their case was kept alive long enough for them to discover the defendants’ deceit.
Here is how the truth was discovered. Coincidentally, the lawyer representing the baby and her parents was suing Hamot in another case. In that case, it was in the hospital’s interest to reveal that such protocols were in place and so it did. The hospital produced a written policy that was signed by Dr. Townsend and was titled “Contemporary Women’s Health Care,” the name of the practice that ultimately became Lake Erie Women’s Center.
Well, you can imagine the surprise to the lawyer. He sought sanctions against the doctor, the practice and the hospital for the costs he incurred in reliance on their false and misleading prior answers. The defendants had little response. They tried to claim that the protocols weren’t really protocols but were merely used to credential midwives. The judge wasn’t buying it, however. He sanctioned the defendants in the amount of the costs that were caused by their inappropriate conduct and he ordered that when the case is next tried the jury will be told of their deceit. The jury will be advised that they may consider that the defendants “intentionally or with gross disregard…failed to disclose..evidence during the discovery process.”
This is a story that ends well. The deceit was discovered and exposed in time for the plaintiff to be given a meaningful remedy. Unfortunately, we know with certainty that not every dishonest act is discovered and not every injustice is remedied.
The larger truth illustrated by this case is the lengths to which medical malpractice defendants (like doctors and hospitals) will go when defending claims. Honesty and ethics are pushed aside because, in the view of many medical negligence defendants, it’s not fair to them to be held accountable in court. They reason that since it’s not fair to them, there’s no reason for them to be fair to the injured patient. In other words, the end justifies the means. And the end is always exoneration of the doctor or hospital, regardless of the truth.
We Can Help
At Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C., our Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers recognize the challenges presented by doctors and hospitals who will not admit the truth. We perform a thorough investigation at the outset of a case using leading experts to help us ensure that the case is built solidly from the ground up. If you would like a free consultation with one of our experienced Erie medical malpractice lawyers, call today at 814-833-7100 or toll free at 814-833-7100.