Anyone involved in a lawsuit?

  1. Hi all,
    I received a letter late Friday telling me I was a "fact witness" , NOT a defendant, in a lawsuit regarding a procedure I was involved in, last April 2001! Has anyone else ever had this happen? I am now to the point where at least I don't hyperventilate anymore when I look at the letter. I feel like *I* did something wrong (the patient died) but I am not the one being sued, and I can't think of anything I did wrong anyways. But I also don't remember that much about it at this point. I am very nervous, any advice out there? Is this something I need to get my own counsel for? I do have nursing liability insurance, am I supposed to call my insurance co. about it too? help, please!

    I of course will be calling the lawyers who sent me the letter tomorrow, and going from there, but I know you guys will help me!

    thanks!!!!!!
    Nancy
    Last edit by Jas honey on Jun 9, '02
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  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   Brownms46
    Don't call the attorney...call your own attorney and have him answer this. And yes call you malpractice insurance company. I haven't....thank God received any letter of this kind...but I know when dealing with lawyers...you need to be cautious! I have several lawyer friends...and you need to be careful what you say and how you say it. Start refreshing your memory...and don't tell the other side you don't remember anything. Let your lawyer do the talking. Sounds like their on a fishing expedition...and I wouldn't give any bait to catch anything with. I'm not talking about hiding anything...but truth is not always what they're after.

    This is JMHO...but I have been around..and just felt I would forewarn you.
  4. by   ratchit
    You're a fact witness. Not a term I'm familiar with but it definitely sounds better than being a defendant!

    You pay your malpractice insurance premiums just for moments like this. I wouldn't say word one to the people who sent the letter without talking to a lawer who knows the system and is representing ME first.

    Take a deep breath and relax. From what other people have posted about lawsuits, if they could have named you as a defendant they would have.
  5. by   purplemania
    Call our malpractice ins. - they have atty on retainer to answer ? and keep you out of trouble. At the least they can provide advice. Contact Risk Mgmt. in your facility. See about getting permission to review the chart and take your own notes (probably can't get copy of chart). Only answer questions, never volunteer info. Tell them if you don't understand question or if you don't remember. Good luck. You are already a professional, so keep that in mind and do your usual excellent best.
  6. by   shootemrn
    I have been named in a lawsuit and was named as a defendant. The lawsuit was actually for a child who died of menengititis. We saw the child in our ED one week before he died. He was diagnosed with URI and sent home and did well for three days and came back to the hospital and DX with bacterial menengititis. He died two days later. The whole purpose of the lawsuit is that we misdiagnosed him the first time. Even though we could not have DX him so far ahead. The hospital won the suit.
    Whenever a lawsuit is filed the name everyone in the suit even lab techs, or anyone who may have come in contact with named patient. Do as the other posters have said and forward all your stuff you get to the lawyers let them handle it. Dont woryy too much either. You werent even named in the suit.
  7. by   fedupnurse
    Ditto to all of the above and whatever you do, DO NOT LET the hospital attorney represent you. They are just that: The hospitals attorney and looking out for their best interest. If you honestly don't remember then be truthful and say so. Honesty is the best policy in this situation. Take a breath and relax.
    Good luck. Let us know what happens. The way the legal system works that may take 10 or 20 years.....
  8. by   catlady
    I had to testify at a deposition last fall. I was the recorder at a code about six years ago where the patient expired. Not my patient, and somehow they expected me to remember the situation. The plaintiff's lawyer kept trying to get me to speculate on what I thought some of the code sheet meant, and I stood my ground and refused. I would only testify to those things I knew for a fact, and to what was written on the paper. I would *not* try to "refresh my memory." That, IMO, is the same as inventing new memories; i.e., totally unreliable.

    I pretty much told both lawyers that I had no ax to grind (I would never work for that hospital again) and I wasn't out to help either one of them. I haven't heard from anyone since, so I don't know if the case settled, went to trial, or what.
  9. by   KaraLea
    If this happened over a year ago, then I don't think you could be expected to remember exactly what happened. Just go by what you charted. I have had more experienced nurses tell me to chart as if that note is going to end up in court a year or so from now. In other words, document...document...document.
  10. by   Brownms46
    [QUOTE]Originally posted by catlady
    for a fact, and to what was written on the paper. I would *not* try to "refresh my memory." That, IMO, is the same as inventing new memories; i.e., totally unreliable.

    My statement about her refreshing her memories was not meant as a suggestion to invent or contribe anything! What I meant was to try and remember the situation. Maybe I didn't state it well enough...but I surely didn't think someone anyone would think to imply that I was saying to lie..or fabricate something...especially since I did say don't hide anything.

    There are many situations that happened in the past years...that if I sat down and really thought about it I could probably remember a lot more than I thought I did! My opinion was not one to say...make up anything but to be aware...that there are times...just as you stated that an attorney will try and get you to say or agree to things that didn't happen. My feelings were...not to say anything until you had sat down and really thought about it! Getting a copy of the chart is another way! And yes after talking to a friend I found out that this is something that is done...as each party is allowed to have a copy. Please don't make remarks....about what your assumptions were about something I wrote! Ask me what I meant...please I just love the way people think they know what you are thinking...but totally have no clue..
    Last edit by Brownms46 on Jun 9, '02
  11. by   catlady
    Originally posted by Brownms46
    My statement about her refreshing her memories was not meant as a suggestion to invent or contribe anything! .... I just love the way people think they know what you are thinking...
    I wasn't suggesting anything of the sort. It is my belief that when you try to "refresh" your memory by using charts, thinking hard, or whatever, that your memory begins to fill in with an alternate reality! There has been a lot of research supporting the theory that anyone's mind can easily be tricked into creating new memories by being presented with new material. The brain absorbs the new material into the old context, and, voila, a "memory" is born. And it's not contrived, or deliberate, or invented; it seems totally real to the person, yet it clearly isn't. That's why, even though I had a very vague recollection of the case at hand, I didn't try to look back and force something that wasn't there already. My memory is my memory.

    I just love the way *you* thought you knew how I was thinking....Sheesh.
  12. by   Brownms46
    Originally posted by catlady


    I wasn't suggesting anything of the sort. It is my belief that when you try to "refresh" your memory by using charts, thinking hard, or whatever, that your memory begins to fill in with an alternate reality! There has been a lot of research supporting the theory that anyone's mind can easily be tricked into creating new memories by being presented with new material. The brain absorbs the new material into the old context, and, voila, a "memory" is born. And it's not contrived, or deliberate, or invented; it seems totally real to the person, yet it clearly isn't. That's why, even though I had a very vague recollection of the case at hand, I didn't try to look back and force something that wasn't there already. My memory is my memory.

    I just love the way *you* thought you knew how I was thinking....Sheesh.

    I have decided from your subsequent posts..I had you pegged...from the beginning...and shouldn't have even doubted my thoughts.
    Last edit by Brownms46 on Jun 14, '02
  13. by   NannaNurse
    DON'T TALK TO ANYBODY EXCEPT YOUR OWN ATTORNEY!!! OMG...please don't call the attorneys that sent you the letter or discuss your 'thoughts'....'fears'.....'concerns'.....etc with ANYONE!!
    When questioned in court...keep your answers as close to 'yes' and 'no' as possible. Don't elaborate or offer information. Just stick to the questions asked and keep it short and to the point. If you don't know....then say so. Only answer what you 'know for a fact...without a doubt'.
    These attorneys will try to mess with your head and trip you up. They can take something you say....turn it around and ask the same question later, phrasing it differently and then get you for perjury if you answer it different than the first time.
    Please, Please, Please.....if you have your own insurance...USE it.
    Good luck and let us know how it turns out...
  14. by   Jas honey
    well, i have called everyone there is to call.....i have to review records and then give a deposition. my stomach doesnt feel very good today

    thank you ALL for the good advice! i have an attorney from my group's practice (i work for a private cardiology group) that i can hire on my own.

    sheesh with all the other crap we have to worry about, why does this have to be thrown in the middle of the mess.

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