Our claims team knows that providing testimony in a court case can be a stressful experience. That’s why we go above and beyond to prepare our insureds for the courtroom. A [recent] defense verdict we secured is a great case study in how we partner with our insureds every step of the way.
The case was brought by a 33-year old plaintiff who had undergone arthroscopic surgery of the right knee. The plaintiff alleged that the anesthesiologist improperly performed a regional femoral nerve block resulting in nerve injury, pain, and disability.
While the anesthesiologist was highly competent, he had difficulty communicating in a way that would withstand examination by the plaintiff attorney or be well-received by a jury. Although extensive efforts at witness preparation were undertaken by risk management and defense counsel, concerns remained. Efforts were intensified, and PRI recruited professional out-of-state experts in witness preparation. Video-recordings of the anesthesiologist undergoing staged cross-examinations were used to provide constructive feedback that would bolster the anesthesiologist’s ability to communicate effectively in a courtroom setting.
For many physicians, traversing the legal landscape as a medical malpractice defendant can be an emotional minefield; therefore, attending to the defendant’s emotional experiences is critical to comprehensive witness preparation. In this case, our defense team enlisted a witness preparation expert with specific experience preparing physicians for the emotional challenges of litigation. For the anesthesiologist involved, this “emotional advocacy” proved particularly beneficial.
To supplement and strengthen the anesthesiologist’s communication, professional graphics, videos, and vivid exhibits were developed, and the witness preparation experts incorporated these materials into their prep sessions. By practicing with the exhibits, the anesthesiologist was better prepared to skillfully use the exhibits when testifying in court.
Ultimately, the defense strategy proved successful. The anesthesiologist effectively walked the jury through every step of the procedure using the various materials. By the end of the testimony, the jury had a crystal clear understanding of the procedure, as well as confidence that the anesthesiologist was thoroughly competent at performing a femoral nerve blockade.
When the plaintiff attorney attempted to derail the anesthesiologist by suggesting the anesthesiologist’s admission that he penetrated the femoral sheath meant that the anesthesiologist went through the sheath that surrounds the femoral nerve thereby injuring the nerve, the anesthesiologist was able to use the professionally prepared graphics to show the jury that the plaintiff attorney was conflating two different sheaths.
In a unanimous 6-0 verdict, the jury found that the anesthesiologist had not departed from the standard of care when administering the regional nerve block. our effective pre-trial defense strategies prevailed against a formidable legal adversary and a plaintiff who made a very sympathetic witness.
**Although the disposition of this claim predates the formation of EmPRO, the management of the claim was handled by EmPRO’s management company (PRIMMA, LLC). To learn more about the EmPRO story, click here.