Courting Justice For Medical Malpractice in Central Pennsylvania

July 11, 2014

I just got done trying a medical malpractice case in central Pennsylvania. I lost.

It’s not the type of case most trial lawyers would have taken. Rather it’s not the type of place most trial lawyers would have taken a case. Counties in Central Pennsylvania are what we trial lawyers call “God’s Will Counties” because of the common belief in those counties that, if something bad happens, it’s no one’s fault; it’s just God’s will.

In addition to this pervasive laissez-faire attitude, my client and I also had stacked against us a lopsided battle of experts. The 12-member jury heard the testimony of one liability expert from our side, while they got to hear the testimonies of three experts from the defendant’s side—one more than the usual allotted for the defense, over my clear objections. Needless to say, it’s hard to convince a jury that one expert is right and three wrong.

Altogether, bad odds. So why did I take such a case?

Because I was right on the medicine. At the outset, I knew the case had very little, if any, financial incentive and even less media glory. Nevertheless, I took on this case because of the very tiny chance of achieving a verdict that would set a legal precedent for what can be expected from physicians so that others don’t suffer the avoidable injuries my client had to suffer.

It’s a worrisome factoid of the legal industry that 95 percent of the people who have suffered as a result of medical malpractice will never have their day in court primarily because most attorneys won’t accept even winnable cases that award less than $250,000. But, every so often, I (like my colleagues at Kolsby Gordon) like to be exceptions to that rule in courting justice, because justice should and needs to be courted.

During this trial, I was running on adrenaline with just enough food or sleep to keep me going. When it was over, my body crashed, but then I got up with a crystal clear thought that compels me today.

After the trial, the judge spoke to the jury and then shared with me their view of the case. “God’s Will.” Next time, when I win in Central Pennsylvania, I’m going to remember to say the same thing.