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Defense Attorneys Dismissed For Pressuring Expert Witness in Georgia Medical Malpractice Case According to Online News Reports


Posted on Jul 25, 2012

A defense counsel has been dismissed from a case after it was determined they had tampered with the plaintiff's expert witness in a Georgia medical malpractice case last week.

 

Pamela Kemp was suing for the wrongful death of her husband, David Kemp, 64, who died in 2009 after WellStar Hospital gave him drugs that interacted disastrously with his risk factors related to a lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking. He entered the hospital with a shortness of breath from his chronic emphysema and eventually suffered brain injury and respiratory failure.

 

The trial was set for this month but is now postponed because WellStar must find itself new attorneys within 60 to 90 days.

 

It turns out that their go-to attorneys at Green & Sapp contacted Susan Sommers, general counsel at rival Northside Hospital. Sommers presides over the department where Dr. William Stinnette works as an internist. Stinnette was going to come into court and testify as a medical expert on behalf of the injured victim's family.

 

Sommers had assured Green & Sapp that Stinnette would not testify in this case. Turns out defense counsel contacted Sommers and pressured her to be more proactive.

 

According to Stinnette's testimony, Sommers gave him a call with an "ominous" tone and mentioned a risk to his contract. He was, indeed, intimidated and afraid for his livelihood and his family.

 

The judge ruled this was not a fair trial and kicked Green & Sapp from the case. She based her ruling on the credibility of all the parties involved, given various inconsistencies and omissions. She also labeled a related email correspondence "atrocious." Read the full article to see exactly what the judge was upset about and what she thought of the defense arguments.

 

COMMENTARY

 

In New York in a medical malpractice case we are required to notify the defense that we have retained a medical expert. This is known as an expert witness disclosure. Interestingly, we are required to tell the defense what our expert will be coming in to testify about as well as what documents the witness reviewed in order to come to their conclusions.

 

We are required to provide tje expert's credentials including where they did their residency training and where they are licensed to practice as well as what board certifications they hold. New York specifically does not require us to identify the physician by name. There is a very specific reason for this.

 

The reasoning behind that is to prevent intimidation by the doctor's colleagues, insurance companies or defense counsel. Ironically though, computer technology has allowed all parties to a lawsuit to readily identify medical experts simply by plugging in their credentials into a physician database. Although the intention was good, this law needs to be revised in light of the simple ability to identify a medical expert directly from their credentials.

 

The judge in Georgia in the case noted above went beyond what is typically seen when lawyers are discharged from a case 'for cause'. She apparently felt very strongly and used extremely strong language to make it clear that there was undue pressure and influence asserted upon this medical expert.

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Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer