This week’s Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly newspaper reported a defendant’s verdict in a sad case. The plaintiff had suffered a massive stroke leaving him paralyzed on half of his body and with other terrible deficits. The allegation was that the stroke was caused due to mismanagement of lung surgery following pneumonia. The case was tried by an attorney considered to be a very fine plaintiff’s lawyer, and yet despite excellent representation and horrific damages, the jury awarded the plaintiff nothing.
The case highlights a difficult reality – doctors in Massachusetts win approximately 90% of cases that go to trial – and if the insurer thinks that they will win, there will be no pre-trial settlement. I don’t know all the details of the reported case, so can’t say whether the jury’s decision was a fair one. In general, though, plaintiffs must have more than catastrophic injuries to prevail in a medical malpractice case. The liability facts must be strong. Cases involving lack of communication between concurrent caregivers, admitted medication errors, failure to respond to disturbing symptoms, and alteration of records, often give plaintiffs the best chance for adequate settlements or verdicts.