A Prominent Attorney’s Legal Gamble Backfires – Wrong-Surgery Victim’s Family Gets No Award

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Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, left, escorts his client Jack Kevorkian from the Detroit Police Headquarters in 1993. (AP)

For the relatives of an elderly Michigan woman who died after unnecessary cranial surgery—instead of the correct jaw surgery—the price of their lawyer’s ill-advised legal gamble may have totaled millions of dollars, according to a February 16th story in the Washington Post, among other news outlets.

Knowing that Michigan caps noneconomic damage awards in medical malpractice but not ordinary negligence cases, the plaintiff’s lawyer (who previously represented Jack Kevorkian) alleged ordinary negligence in the family’s initial claim against the Dearborn hospital and staff. A trial court, however, dismissed that claim, arguing that the suit should be viewed in the context of medical negligence. The lawyer thereupon refiled the family’s suit as a medical malpractice claim.

At trial, the hospital conceded medical negligence, but the plaintiff’s legal team continued to present the case as ordinary negligence, apparently rolling the dice in order to win a judgment that wouldn’t be restricted by the state’s lid on noneconomic damages.

It eventually backfired, and due to the miscalculated gamble of the plaintiff’s attorney, the plaintiff ended up with no [ordinary] negligence claim and no medical malpractice claim, and consequentially, zero monetary award.

Read the full article here.