Over the course of 30 years, Cattani had been sued no fewer than 40 times, while authorities and advocacy groups managed to do absolutely nothing about it. The state Health Department and the Center for Medical Consumers, a non-profit group, admit that the writing was on the wall for a long time. The Office of Professional Medical Conduct was notified of complaints as early as 2003.
Earlier this December, however, New York Health Commissioner Nirav Shah suspended Dr. Cattani's license. A disciplinary board is now holding a hearing on his case, which may lead to a permanent suspension or revocation of his license.
Examples of Cattani's infractions are harrowing. In 2005, a preschool teacher lost sight in one eye after an eyelid lift. A 2007 liposuction resulted in a perforated bowel. In 2009, a woman left her lower-face-and-neck lift operation with thick scars painful enough to keep her awake. A 2010 tummy-tuck operation ended in life-threatening blood loss and kidney failure. Cattani was accused of blocking EMS from assisting at the time.
Dr. Cattani is known to have been very successful, sporting lavish homes in Long Island and Florida. However, in addition to his recent medical difficulties, he has also run into debt troubles with the IRS and ex-accountants.
Two key issues arise when a doctor loses his license to practice and when he has a history of so many prior lawsuits against him.
1. “ If I have a valid case against this doctor, can we tell the jury at trial that he has lost his license to practice medicine?”
The short answer is yes.
The longer answer is that although we may be able to let the jury know that the doctor is no longer practicing medicine and had his license revoked by the New York State Department of Health, we may be unable to explain to the jury the underlying reasons why his license was revoked.
2. "The fact that the doctor has been sued 40 times, can we use that information at trial to show a pattern of neglect in my case?”
The answer will surprise you. The answer is no and here's why.
Let's say you get pulled over by a policeman for speeding. He checks your license history and learns that you were ticketed for speeding five times within the past year. Does your past history of speeding automatically mean that you were speeding in this instance? It might indicate a pattern of speeding, however you might not have been speeding in this case. Do you want the cop to automatically assume you were speeding because of your 5 prior speeding tickets?
The mere fact that the doctor has been sued so many times does not necessarily mean that he departed from good care in your case. It might, but we have to show to the jury that, more likely than not, the treatment you received was inappropriate and caused you significant harm.
If some of the doctor's prior cases went to a jury verdict and a jury determined that he was responsible for injuries and became legally obligated to compensate those victims, then we can likely use that information at the time of trial.
In addition, if the doctor has given testimony at a deposition, also known as a pretrial question and answer session, we can use that testimony to contradict what he might say at the time of your trial.
If we try and insinuate that simply because the doctor has been sued so many times before, that automatically means that the treatment you received was improper, the defense attorney will raise numerous objections and it is guaranteed that the trial judge will sustain those objections and not allow the doctor to answer those questions. If we persist in asking that line of questioning, the court will likely view that as trying to prejudice the jury into believing that your current treatment should somehow be influenced by his past legal troubles.
If your attorney persists with that line of questioning and the jury ultimately makes an award in your behalf, that line of questioning may be grounds for reversal of your award.
If you would like more information about how medical malpractice and accident cases work in the state of New York, I encourage you to explore my educational website. If you have legal questions, I urge you to pick up the phone and call me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions. That's what I do every day. I welcome your call.