I actually respect this defense lawyer.
I can't believe I'm saying that.
I'd never worked a case with him before.
I'd never run into him on a case before.
I didn't know of his reputation.
I knew his firm, but never had any dealings with this defense attorney.
It was a medical malpractice case.
It was also a wrongful death case.
He represented a gynecologist.
My client's mom died after undergoing a 'routine' gyn surgery.
You should know that there are some defense attorneys who are excellent at what they do.
There are some defense lawyers who are simply good at what they do.
There are some who are Ok.
And there are some who are let’s say...less than good.
But, let's not sugar coat it.
There are some who are awful.
I have been a medical malpractice attorney for 28 years now.
I can count on one hand the number of opponents whom I have encountered who I actually respect.
I respect their talent.
I respect their integrity.
I recognize they are truly a worthy adversary.
In this article I want to share with you a story of a defense attorney who fits that category.
I’m not going to name him. If I did, I think it would go to his head and I don’t want to do that.
Here was the case.
An elderly woman was having “Routine Gyn surgery” and was told she would be in and out of the hospital the same day.
It was laparoscopic gynecologic surgery.
The gynecologist had done this surgery hundreds of times before.
“A piece of cake,” is what he told her.
After surgery, the patient was told by her gynecologist that her surgery went “Great! Go home and follow up in the office in a week."
The patient did as she was told.
She returned home and later that night was having abdominal pain.
Before she had a chance to call the doctor, the doctor called her first wanting to know how she was feeling.
“I’m not feeling too well,” she said. “My belly hurts.”
The gynecologist told her not to worry.
“It’s just residual gas from the laparoscopic surgery. Take some Tylenol and you’ll be fine.”
She did as she was told.
She took Tylenol but was unable to sleep that night.
In the morning she went to the bathroom and collapsed.
She was unresponsive.
An ambulance was called and they tried to revive her all the way to the hospital.
She was dead on arrival.
Her adult son wanted answers and got none.
Her gynecologist had no idea why she died.
Her son asked for an autopsy.
The medical examiner agreed to accept her case.
Four weeks later, the medical examiner had an answer.
Turns out his mom died of massive sepsis.
Sepsis is a system-wide infection that if not diagnosed and treated promptly can be fatal.
“How did my mom develop such a massive infection to cause her death?” asked her son.
The medical examiner explained that he found a fresh hole in her bowel.
He told the son that the hole was caused during the laparoscopic surgery mom had just a day earlier.
A medical expert confirmed the fact that the surgeon inadvertently caused a bowel perforation during this surgery and failed to recognize it at the time it happened.
Also, when the patient complained of significant post-operative belly pain, the surgeon minimized the chance it was of any importance which was a massive mistake.
Instead, he should have sent the patient to the emergency room for evaluation.
Here’s why I respect the defense attorney who was assigned to represent this gynecologist...
He was a veteran trial attorney with 30 years of trial experience.
When he came to my office to question my client- the surviving adult son, the defense attorney treated him with respect and dignity.
He was a real professional.
Although he knew our interests were totally opposed, he recognized that it’s still possible to be polite to an opponent and extract testimony that he needs for his defense.
The great thing that I appreciate when working with a fellow experienced trial attorney is that he knows exactly what questions to ask and what not to ask.
I have found that many novice defense attorneys and even those who have been in practice for a few years, still have trouble limiting their questions to only the ones they truly need to know.
In contrast, young inexperienced attorneys come to question a witness during their pretrial question and answer session, known legally as a deposition, with a stack of type-written questions.
They ask every possible question, even those unrelated to the issues or the defenses in the case.
The reason they ask tons of useless questions is because they don’t try cases and don’t know what is useful at trial and what isn’t.
This attorney didn’t waste any time with questions that were irrelevant.
He knew how to phrase his questions.
He understood that if I objected to a question, it wasn’t an attack on him, but rather just an improperly asked question.
That merely prompted him to say “No problem, I’ll ask it a different way.”
I do the same exact thing.
I had planned to be at my client’s pre-trial testimony all day.
In fact, I had told my client to plan to be at his deposition all day.
This lawyer was so good, so direct and to the point, that he was done within just two hours.
During this time, it was obvious he got the information he need to mount a defense.
Although I was amazed at how good this attorney was, I couldn’t tell him what I thought of him at that moment.
He knew from pre-trial testimony and the facts of this case that I had a solid case and was only a matter of time before we settled this.
That’s exactly what happened.
I was able to successfully settle this case to my client’s satisfaction.
It was not until months later when I ran into this attorney in court that I stopped him and thanked him for his professionalism.
I thanked him for his knowledge and his expertise.
I thanked him for knowing what questions to ask and what not to ask.
I told him I appreciated his experience and it was a pleasure to work with a worthy adversary.
He was one of the few trial lawyers I have ever told that I would be honored to go up against him at trial on another matter.