Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Obstruct and hide

Nothing to fear but the truth

By David Baker
Posted June 18, 2007

With the two lawsuits now moving along, it’s time to wonder why the defendants in both cases are so nervous.

In my case against Samaritan Hospital, the lawyers for the defendants apparently feel they need help. During a conference they requested with Saratoga County Supreme Court Judge Stephen Ferradino last month, one of the three attorneys told Ferradino that she was concerned about what might happen during depositions in the case. The lawyer then went on to suggest that a referee be appointed for this taking of testimony under oath.

Normally, depositions are taken without a judge present. An attorney representing the deponent can object to a question, but the witness usually has to answer it. Later, if the other side wants to cite the answer at trial, a judge, after reviewing all the deponent’s testimony, will rule on whether that part of the transcript can be used.

But these attorneys apparently would like to edit their clients’ testimony as it is given. So they want a judge to be there to make an immediate ruling on any objection the defense lawyer wants to make.

This will mean that they could be many questions that will not be answered, avenues of inquiry that will not be explored, because the defense can claim that the answer would be irrelevant, or that the question is improper on any one of many other grounds.

The defense lawyers did not do me the professional courtesy of informing me of their request prior to the conference, so I had no time to consider its implications. I was blinded-sided. But the judge, without any hesitation, agreed to the request. He even already had a specific person in mind who could be the referee; retired Supreme Court judge Robert Doran.

It has been hard to shake the uneasy feeling that there had been some discussion about this request before the conference started.

At the depositions, I will be entirely on my own. I have no legal training and never went to college. I never even went to a high school or grade school.

But the three defense firms will have at least three lawyers there, probably more, all with years of training and experience, all of them backed by the virtually unlimited resources of an immensely wealthy insurance company. And they want a referee.

So what are they so afraid of?

In my case against lawyer and media star Steve Coffey, I can serve subpoenas on anyone who I believe has information that might support my claims. Last week I wrote to Times Union Editor Rex Smith, asking him to let me know of any dates in the next couple of months when he would not be available for a deposition.

Smith’s paper did not report my case against Coffey. My lawsuit in part alleges a conspiracy. And for years it has ignored virtually every medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Capital Region hospitals, hospitals that during that time have run hundreds of thousand of dollars’ worth of ads in its pages.

Does Smith think this is serving the public’s interest? Or is it his company’s profits that he is placing first? Isn’t he in league with the hospitals and the lawyers when his paper suppresses stories that might force the medical community to reduce errors instead of trying to cover them up?

So what was the response to my letter from the man who is always boasting in print about his mission to get the truth? He contacted the newspaper’s lawyers in New York City, one of whom called to tell me in no uncertain terms that she would fight – and block – any attempt to get Smith’s testimony.

What is he so afraid of?

But as all this goes on, pushed aside are the questions that are being deliberately obstructed in this legal tangle: What happened on the night of November 10th and 11th 2003 in room 18 on the fourth floor of Samaritan Hospital? Why was a diabetic patient who had already had an insulin reaction that evening left unchecked until her blood sugar fell to the point that she stopped breathing, and as a result, despite frantic efforts to resuscitate her, received horrific injuries that left her in a irreversible coma? Was she given insulin during that evening, even though her blood-sugar level never came anywhere near the point at which insulin was ordered? And if not, what is the hospital’s explanation for the sudden plunge in blood sugar?

Why did the evening nurses not follow the hospital’s own printed instructions for dealing with a insulin reaction, even though a doctor’s note in the chart specifically told them to do so? What was defendant nurse Mary Ann Lee Salvana told about her patient when she came on duty? Did she see the warning in the chart that Lisa might become hypoglycemic? What was this RN doing between midnight and 2:07 a.m., as Lisa’s blood sugar and her heart rate dropped and her life ebbed away?

Those are some of the questions I want answered.

That’s what this is all about. The truth.

And that’s what these people are so afraid of.