Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, March 07, 2008

State of confusion

Lawyers get more
 than they wanted
By David Baker
Posted Friday, March 7, 2008

The defendants in my lawsuit against Samaritan Hospital and a doctor were given even more time than they had asked for during a conference at the courthouse on Thursday.

State Supreme Court Judge Stephen Ferradino called all parties to his chambers in a letter sent out last month. But after everyone was seated, he looked around and asked: "So which of you asked for this conference?"

The letter from the judge arrived on the same day as a letter from attorneys for Samaritan Hospital that said the judge had granted their request for an extension of 30 days to respond to my motion for summary judgment.

I had sent in a written objection to the delay.
After a brief discussion, the judge said her would give the defense attorneys until April 30 - five weeks more than they had requested - to file their motions.

One of two attorneys there representing the hospital then said that in addition to opposing my motion, she intended to file a cross motion for summary dismissal.

To succeed, a motion for summary judgment must convince a judge that even if everything alleged in a lawsuit is true, the plaintiff has no case.

Such motions are rarely granted, but they are often used by large corporations and insurance companies in a cynical attempt to drive up a plaintiff's costs. The hope is that the plaintiff will be forced to drop even a claim that has merit or accept an tiny "nuisance value" settlement. These motions usually require both sides to obtain the testimony of an expert, which big insurance companies can easily afford to do, while a small law firm or, as in this case, a self-represented litigant might find much more difficult.

Samaritan's lawyer said that she in fact does have an expert who will say that the hospital has little if any responsibility for the injuries Lisa received while she was its care. But she also said that it had taken from last September until now - almost five months - to find the expert and to get his or her formal opinion.