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Protect Yourself, Don’t Represent Yourself

Medical malpractice lawsuits are usually time consuming, expensive, and did we mention time consuming? The process usually begins with some type of screening panel to ascertain the merits of the case. From there an initial complaint is filed, the discovery process begins, some type of settlement conference will usually be required and then, if necessary, the trial. The process requires skilled legal representation to navigate multiple angles of the case. After all of the steps are met, it is still entirely possible that the plaintiff will not be happy with the ultimate outcome. Such is the case with a woman who went through a two-year long battle for what she considered to be justice, but did so on her own, without any legal help.

A woman brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against PeaceHealth Cascade Emergency Associates, Ramona Sherman, Marc Kranz, Lower Columbia Mental Health Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, and St. John Medical Center based upon the claim that the defendants wrongly diagnosed her with a mental illness rather than treating her for a brain injury. The plaintiff represented herself at trial.

The plaintiff, Michelle Dalen, claimed that she was scraping ice off her car when she slipped and hit her head on the pavement. Her family then took her to St. John Medical Center but the visit was not until three days after the alleged slip and fall.

Once at the hospital, the family mentioned to hospital staff that they believed the plaintiff was intoxicated but the plaintiff refuted the notion stating that she had indeed fallen.

At trial, the plaintiff sought damages not only for medical malpractice, but also for civil right infringement and false imprisonment. The plaintiff stated that she was assaulted by guards; forcibly catheterized forcibly medicated; and lied to by hospital staff. All of the aforementioned was allegedly done without the plaintiff’s informed consent. As a result of going untreated for her initial reason for her hospital visit – the slip and fall – the plaintiff claimed that she continues to suffer from the side effects of the brain injury.

While it is possible that the case had merit, the judge ultimately dismissed the case, reportedly because it was felt that the plaintiff had not presented a credible expert witness to support her arguments. The plaintiff had brought on a clinical case manager for the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington. The case manager stated that it is a common occurrence for hospitals to misdiagnose a brain injury as mental illness. However, the defense argued that the case manager was not qualified to be an expert witness since a counselor with a rehabilitation Ph.D. is not considered to be qualified to offer a standard of care opinion which is the crux of a claim of medical malpractice.

In addition to relying on the opinion from a person not qualified to posit such testimony, the plaintiff neglected to file her complaints in a timely manner, nor did they contain factual support.

Medical malpractice cases are complex. Even the most “slam dunk” case needs a skilled attorney on board to make certain that the case is put in the best possible position to succeed. Without reputable legal support, a successful outcome is almost an impossibility.

Medical malpractice can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. If you have been injured by a physician’s neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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