Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Judgment call

Time, it seems, is always on their side

By David Baker
Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The judge's strange decision earlier this month to give the defendants more than twice the extra time they had asked for - over my written objection - to respond to my motion for summary judgment is not the first time he has gone out of his way to help them.

Back in 2006, the lawyers representing Samaritan Hospital and two doctors didn't want to add time; they were trying to reduce the number of days I would have to find a new lawyer. They knew finding alternative representation would not be easy and they were clearly hoping that I would not be able to do so and that I would be forced to drop the lawsuit.

But after my former attorney had asked the court to remove her from the case, two of the defendants' lawyers waited until the day after the deadline to send a letter to the judge asking that I get only 60 days rather than the 120 days my former attorney had requested I be given. Both letters should have been disregarded by the court, but instead the judge reduced the time to 90 days. Meanwhile, he refused to accept a reply to the motion from me because I had mistakenly not had it notarized.

Ninety days might sound like enough time to find a new lawyer. But doing soinvolves having the medical file reviewed by a doctor. And look how long it took for Kathleen Ryan, the hospital's lawyer to get a "final review," which she said was necessary before she could make any offer to settle. More than five months. I suspect it took so long because the first several experts she went to were unwilling to give her the report she wanted.

At the March 6 conference, she said she now had the report, and that it is "more favorably to the hospital and less favorably to (a doctor who is no longer a defendant)."

But she made two significant admissions in that statement. One, that avoidable damage was done. And two, that the hospital is responsible for some of it.

There is a rule that says that if any one defendant is found to be more then 50 responsible, that defendant can be liable for 100 percent of the damages. So she is now trying not to avoid her client's liability, but to limit it by blaming the 'empty chair'.

I don't believe it will work. The medical record shows the doctor anticipated that Lisa might become hypoglycemic that evening and gave instructions on how to treat it, instructions that the nurses did not follow.

The next step is for the defendants to serve responses to my motion, which, following the judge's strange decision, are not now due until the end of next month. That's nine weeks longer than the seven days I had to respond to the motions they served on me.

And I am still waiting for Ms. Ryan to acknowledge that she was wrong when she accused me in writing of failing to file a deposition transcript with the court.

Admitting mistakes is clearly not something she, or her clients are able to do.