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Asked to meet with defense counsel to clarify documentation

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May82 May82 (New) New Nurse

Specializes in Cardiac IMU. Has 6 years experience.

I was recently informed that a patient I cared for has named the facility where I work in a legal suit and the defense counsel wants to meet with me to clarify some documentation. Does this mean I did something wrong or am in some kind of trouble? I feel like if I was personally responsible for some kind of error, it would have come up before now. I don’t know....... I imagine this would make anyone nervous. Has anyone else had this happen or know someone this happened to? Any advice? Am I just being paranoid?

TriciaJ, RN

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 40 years experience.

Remember these are lawyers, not medical personnel. They don't always understand what they're reading in a note. They want to be sure they have all their ducks in a row before they go into any meetings.

There's a good chance your note is what saves everyone's bacon. For that reason they want to make sure they're reading it correctly.

36 minutes ago, TriciaJ said:

Remember these are lawyers, not medical personnel. They don't always understand what they're reading in a note. They want to be sure they have all their ducks in a row before they go into any meetings.

There's a good chance your note is what saves everyone's bacon. For that reason they want to make sure they're reading it correctly.

This. But I would also consult an attorney because facilities are there to protect themselves, not you. They deem nurses replaceable. It may be what TriciaJ said, but it may also be the facility is using you and maybe some other coworkers as distractions to clear the facility. The last thing you ever want to be is a party in a lawsuit because the facility may not necessarily have your best interest in mind. Also, it may be the defense wants to use you to prove the facility's fault ( I can't think of a better way to say it) in which case the facility may create a hostile working environment. I've seen it both ways so I wouldn't say anything.

BSNbeDONE, ASN, BSN, LPN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, LTACH, LTC, Home Health. Has 35 years experience.

I was once contacted by the attorney of a previous employer. Apparently, they disliked my answers to their questions as much as I disliked what I witnessed at that facility because I never heard from them again.

Closed Account 12345

Has 14 years experience.

This isn't legal advice, but if I were in your shoes, I would personally...

-Avoid any signs of remembering the patient, even if you do. I wouldn't say "Oh yeah, I remember this case."

-Avoid any self-blaming words, I.e. "I would normally do XYZ, but that night we were swamped and short staffed." "I should've documented ABC, too," etc.

-Avoid adding a single thing verbally to my documentation. I would not expand upon what I'd written by guessing about the situation, my thought process while charting, etc. I'd say "I consistently document the care I provide and pertinent findings. However, I have cared for so many people that I can't accurately speak about the nursing care I've provided to past patients beyond what I've already documented in writing."

I'd happily answer questions like: "Is a BP of 184/102 normal?" "What does edema mean?" "What are crackles?" "Why would this patient have Lasix ordered?"

I would decline answering questions like: "Is there a reason you didn't call Dr. Smith when your patient had a BP of 184/102 and a headache?"

Keep in mind that your employer's defense attorney is NOT your defense attorney. Their job is to free your employer from liability, not protect individual nurses. If you can tell things are taking a questionable turn, I'd say "I'm not comfortable with this conversation. I am done talking unless I receive a subpoena and have my own attorney present." Shut that right on down if you need. Don't fall for something like "Innocent people don't need representation."

Edited by FacultyRN

6 hours ago, FacultyRN said:

This isn't legal advice, but if I were in your shoes, I would personally...

-Avoid any signs of remembering the patient, even if you do. I wouldn't say "Oh yeah, I remember this case."

-Avoid any self-blaming words, I.e. "I would normally do XYZ, but that night we were swamped and short staffed." "I should've documented ABC, too," etc.

-Avoid adding a single thing verbally to my documentation. I would not expand upon what I'd written by guessing about the situation, my thought process while charting, etc. I'd say "I consistently document the care I provide and pertinent findings. However, I have cared for so many people that I can't accurately speak about the nursing care I've provided to past patients beyond what I've already documented in writing."

I'd happily answer questions like: "Is a BP of 184/102 normal?" "What does edema mean?" "What are crackles?" "Why would this patient have Lasix ordered?"

I would decline answering questions like: "Is there a reason you didn't call Dr. Smith when your patient had a BP of 184/102 and a headache?"

Keep in mind that your employer's defense attorney is NOT your defense attorney. Their job is to free your employer from liability, not protect individual nurses. If you can tell things are taking a questionable turn, I'd say "I'm not comfortable with this conversation. I am done talking unless I receive a subpoena and have my own attorney present." Shut that right on down if you need. Don't fall for something like "Innocent people don't need representation."

This answer should be copy/pasted to every legal question here. Even if it doesn't necessarily answer someone's question (it does here, don't get me wrong), it should still be read. It might even be something that needs to be read everyday.

FolksBtrippin, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Public Health.

I would talk to your facility's lawyer first, openly, and get advice there.

The facility has a strong interest in protecting you, as they may be held financially responsible for what you do.

spotangel, DNP, RN, NP

Specializes in ED,Tele,Med surg, ADN,outpatient,homecare,LTC,Peds. Has 32 years experience.

Go on with a union rep if you have one and keep an open mind. See what the issue is. Ask if you can have a copy of that note and a callback number.

Say "I don't recall that on the top of my head but can I call you back if I remember something? "

42pines

Specializes in Occupational Health; Adult ICU.

It's fair to say that I loathe most lawyers, in general.

Anything that you say, can and will (in this case "could") be used against you.

That is the Miranda clause which, in a way is not applicable because you have not been charged with any wrong-doing.

It seems that you have a few options.

1) Ignore the request or respectfully decline because you cannot afford to have a lawyer come with you to represent your interest. For instance: "that question is not material..," "That question inappropriate..," or, "that question is misleading.."

2) Ask the facility that is being sued if they will provide a lawyer. If not, respectfully decline.

Keep in mind, the lawyer is likely "fishing." I.e. Looking for something useful to help the client. If your testimony is truly material, you will be deposed (by written deposition," or interrogated, "by oral deposition which is recorded," or you will be subpoenaed to testify before a jury.

You have nothing to gain by complying and potentially, things to lose such as opening yourself up to becoming a defendant or even having some sort of Board of Nursing complaint.

It is axiomatic that common folk (meaning not educated lawyers) tend to use common sense in matters of law. However, common sense, in the world of law really makes no sense at all--for it is the specific legal "sense," that applies in that world. For instance, you will not know the terms used in my #1. You really do not know exactly what misleading, or which questions might be inappropriate. Therefore you need an expert to make sure you answer only proper questions.

On 7/2/2020 at 7:30 AM, FolksBtrippin said:

I would talk to your facility's lawyer first, openly, and get advice there.

The facility has a strong interest in protecting you, as they may be held financially responsible for what you do.

Or the opposite. The facility might have a strong interest in painting the OP as a rogue actor they can throw under the bus as not representative of the organization.

It's not something I'd want to chance. The stakes are too high.

FolksBtrippin, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Public Health.

18 hours ago, turtlesRcool said:

Or the opposite. The facility might have a strong interest in painting the OP as a rogue actor they can throw under the bus as not representative of the organization.

It's not something I'd want to chance. The stakes are too high.

They could paint you as a bad employee except that they are equally responsible for their bad employees so what's the point?

You have to know who to trust, even if you only trust them to protect their own self interest.

If not, there is probably some lawyer out there who will be happy to exploit your fear and take all your money.

Unless you have a personal lawyer in your staff. But then why are you working as an RN?

Edited by FolksBtrippin