Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Permanent marker

With the Internet, your
words never go away

By David Baker
Posted August 28, 2008

It’s unlikely that when Dr. Matthew Leinung of Albany Medical Center Hospital was paid to explain away the overwhelming evidence that shows Samaritan Hospital was responsible for Lisa’s death he was told that his outrageous claims could follow him on the Internet for the rest of his career.

That’s because plans for a new Web page that will list lawsuits alleging medical malpractice – and which will include a PDF download of Leinung’s affidavit – were not revealed until after he had signed his sworn statement and, perhaps, even cashed the check.

Leinung probably assumed, if he thought about it at all, that his claims – that nursing staff were not negligent when they ignored the hospital’s own printed instructions on treating low blood sugar, instructions that a treating physician had ordered in Lisa's chart – would never become widely available.

But if the lawsuit over Lisa’s death is dismissed, that is exactly what will happen.

Because of its content and with a growing public focus on medical errors, along with a planned aggressive promotional effort, the new Web page will quickly get a lot of attention. So will Leinung’s affidavit, as a stunning example of just how far the medical community will go to avoid the consequences of its own actions.

Another individual who may find himself with a prominent place on the Web site is Albany attorney Stephen Coffey. For the past four months the Committee on Professional Standards – which is supposed to act on complaints against lawyers – has had my allegation that Coffey, while pretending to consider taking the case, instead tried over a period of several weeks to get it thrown out of court.

The committee is prohibited by law from revealing if it takes action against a lawyer (not surprising considering that many state legislators are themselves lawyers). But any reasonable person seeing the evidence would have to conclude that Coffey committed the worse transgression of all – even worse then stealing a client’s money.

Coffey had the chance to explain his conduct when I filed a lawsuit against him last year. He could have told me all about in a deposition. But instead he got the case thrown out, not on the facts, but because the law does not allow a claim for emotional distress unless you can show physical harm or the threat of immediate physical harm.

But the un-disproved allegations are still a public record, one which can also be made accessible from a Web page.

And for a man with such a visible public presence Coffey surprisingly is apparently assuming that he can simple trample on someone and walk away, even after he described in legal papers as “paranoid” someone whose wrongful-death case he tried and almost succeeded in ending without any evaluation of the facts.

One way or another, he too, will face the consequences of his actions.