The Most Frivolous Lawsuit Contest Redux: Part I
Medical Justice takes aim squarely at deterring frivolous litigation. And we provide remedies for those unjustly sucked into such lawsuits.
Ten years ago, we ran a contest for the Most Frivolous Lawsuit. The “winning” defendant received a free year of membership in Medical / Dental Justice.
We decided to run that same contest one more time. Candidly, we were stunned by the number of submissions. If anyone claims that frivolous lawsuits just don’t exist or that the numbers have gone down, your submissions suggest otherwise.
There were MANY that could easily have been picked as the winner. The hardest part was narrowing the submissions down to one or even two. So, we picked four. We will highlight two this week; two the following week. Still, there were so many other “worthy” submissions.
Sued for Consulting on an Organ That Did Not Exist
I was practicing as a conservative care podiatrist at a nursing home. A patient presented with a consult for “care and treatment of mycotic toenails”. Upon evaluation, the patient had a TMA (trans met amputation) on the right and the left foot was freshly bandaged in its entirety. The patient told me that he had the same exact surgery on the left that he had on the right.
He confirmed that he did not have fungal toenails because he no longer had any toes.
Nursing staff confirmed this.
Patient was being followed by his surgeon who was from out of town, for regular post operative visits. He had an appointment scheduled with his surgeon within 2 days. The MD rehab attending was caring for him and nursing staff performed dressing changes per directions from the nursing home attending MD.
I wrote a note indicating that patient was a surgical patient of Dr. XXXX and had an upcoming appointment. My note included that patient did not possess the body part for which I was consulted. My note included that patient was a surgical patient and bandage was present, intact and clean.
Several months after I left the practice and no longer had malpractice insurance, I was sued. The patient was taken by ambulance the day after I saw him, to an out of town hospital where he underwent a below the knee amputation. During this time he was flooded with platelets which sent him into CHF. He took a turn for the worse. Several weeks following the BKA the patient expired.
When I was sued, I no longer had malpractice insurance and hired a private attorney to “write a letter” to explain that this was not my surgical patient, I was merely a consultant for fungal toenails, and the patient did not have the body part for which I was consulted.
The litigating attorney did not drop me from the case and I fought it alone. The case went to mediation. I was the first one dropped.
However, in discovery I learned that the patient had no further vascular options, the TMA was a limb salvage procedure, the patient had been extensively consulted that he needed a below the knee amputation, and hyperbaric oxygen had failed. The surgeon who performed the surgery was never sued. The limb had poor blood flow at the time of the TMA surgery and following surgery and that limb was not expected to survive.
Only the attending MD and the nursing home insurance paid the small split settlement because of failure to get patient to the ER in a more timely manner. All others were asked if we want to pay and all of us refused.
In the future I will simply send the patient away and not write a note. It’s not worth writing a note if one will get dragged into a lawsuit. I merely wanted others to know that this patient was not a candidate for fungal nail care and made the error of writing a brief note which caused me to get caught up in the case. The case from start to finish was approximately 2 years.
Colleague Who Behaved Like a Criminal Sucked Me into His Drama
At one of the hospitals where I had privileges, there was a young lady working at the scheduling desk. I received a phone call from one of the nursing staff at the hospital who asked me if I could take care of this young lady. Of course, I said yes and the two of them came in for an evaluation.
Approximately two weeks later I proceeded with liposuction surgery of the calf and ankle area (also known as the “cankle” reduction). 3 weeks later the patient had a fantastic result with minimal swelling and I felt very comfortable in going for my vacation while leaving another plastic surgeon covering for me.
A week later the plastic surgeon called me up stating that he had seen my patient who showed signs of an allergic type reaction on her lower legs and told the patient that I as her treating physician wanted her to apply Neosporin ointment to the legs every single day six times a day. I explained to the covering plastic surgeon that this was exactly not the case as I don’t even use Neosporin in my practice. She must stop using Neosporin immediately and begin hydrocortisone cream to alleviate the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
A week later the same patient was seen at a burn unit of one of the hospitals in New York and treated for severe allergic reaction with small (dime size) areas of necrosis in the lower extremities.
A malpractice lawsuit followed soon after.
Six months after the lawsuit was filed, I received a phone call from the patient’s husband who explained that no malpractice was committed on my part. He claimed his wife was having an affair and after a short investigation, he found out that the affair was with another plastic surgeon at the same hospital where I practiced. According to the husband, he started taping the conversations between his wife and that plastic surgeon. He told me that in the multiple audio tapes there were conversations between the wife and the other plastic surgeon who directed her as to how to create a small injury which could make her “a millionaire.” The husband of the same patient also showed me multiple copies of prescriptions written by the other plastic surgeon to create more irritation of the skin. When all of this was explained to my malpractice carrier, they told me none of this information was admissible in a court of law and they simply settled the case with the patient.
These are just two of the many submissions we received. You have to admire the creativity of the plaintiff’s attorneys here. We will present the other two “winning” submissions next week.
What do you think?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeffrey Segal, MD, JD
Dr. Jeffrey Segal, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Medical Justice, is a board-certified neurosurgeon. In the process of conceiving, funding, developing, and growing Medical Justice, Dr. Segal has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on medical malpractice issues, counterclaims, and internet-based assaults on reputation.
Dr. Segal holds a M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, where he also completed a neurosurgical residency. Dr. Segal served as a Spinal Surgery Fellow at The University of South Florida Medical School. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa as well as the AOA Medical Honor Society. Dr. Segal received his B.A. from the University of Texas and graduated with a J.D. from Concord Law School with highest honors.
If you have a medico-legal question, write to Medical Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org.