Saturday, March 19, 2005

Judge Sanctions Trial Attorney for Filing Frivolous Lawsuit against Physician

John Ray over at Socialized Medicine has this story about a medical malpractice attorney taking it on the chin for filing a frivolous lawsuit:

The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) Frivolous Lawsuit Committee scored a major victory on behalf of Ohio physicians recently when a Stark County judge formally sanctioned a trial attorney for filing a frivolous lawsuit against a Canton-area physician.

The judge also ordered the trial attorney to pay $6,000 to the physician as reimbursement for legal expenses incurred as a result of the frivolous suit.

"We are very pleased with the positive ruling in this case,” said Almeta E. Cooper, OSMA general counsel and advisor to OSMA's Frivolous Lawsuit Committee, which was instrumental in filing the "motion for sanctions" against trial attorney Catherine Little.

"Physicians support the patient's right to seek compensation if they are wrongly injured. But when physicians are needlessly and carelessly named as defendants in a lawsuit, then that is clearly an abuse of the judicial system."

The OSMA Frivolous Lawsuit Committee is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

The case centers on a medical liability lawsuit filed against Dr. Zev Maycon by Little and her client, Benjamin Barbato. In the suit, Barbato claimed unnecessary severe physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering resulting from a perforated colon caused by a surgical procedure that Dr. Maycon did not even perform.

In his written opinion, Judge Roger G. Lile found that Little willfully violated a state court rule, known as Rule 11, that bars baseless court filings. Specifically, Lile found that Little's own physician expert witness did not offer any statement or opinion that Dr. Maycon's treatment of Barbato failed to meet the prevailing standard of medical care. In addition, Lile noted that when Dr. Maycon's attorney asked Little to drop Dr. Maycon from the suit because of the lack of evidence, Little “advised not in terms of evidence, but rather in terms of the lack of an offer of money, which would be the basis of Dr. Maycon’s release from litigation.”

"Such a response,” Judge Lile continued, “is clearly frivolous under (Ohio law) as is the retention of Dr. Maycon in this case."

OSMA created the Frivolous Lawsuit Committee in 2004 to identify potential cases in which physicians could seek judicial relief against trial attorneys who file frivolous suits, which all available actuarial evidence shows is one of the primary drivers behind soaring liability insurance premiums for physicians.

To date, the OSMA Frivolous Lawsuit Committee has reviewed more than 111 cases submitted by Ohio physicians who believe that they are the victims of a frivolous lawsuit.

Lile's ruling is currently being appealed.

About damn time!

The attorney should have been sanctioned $20,000!

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