Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Monday, January 23, 2012

Punitive damages claim

Lawsuit seeks $2 million
for unspecified injuries

By David Baker
Posted Monday, Jan. 23, 2012

A manufacturer of medical devices, an orthopedic doctor and his practice and Samaritan Hospital in Troy are all named in a claim for $2 million filed in August 2011 in Rensselaer County.

But instead of a complaint which would describe – sometimes in great detail – the basis of the claim, the attorneys for the plaintiff have filed only a summons with notice.

Filing just a notice allows the details of a claim to be kept from public view, as attorneys – who at one time often actively sought out news coverage when a lawsuit was filed – now apparently want to protect the entities they are suing from bad publicity.

In a very few cases there is a good reason to limit public disclosure, such as when to do so would reveal the identity of a victim of a sexual assault, or if the lawsuit is on behalf of a child. But an examination of several recent lawsuits in which only a notice has been filed suggests that in most cases it is solely to prevent details of allegations that might damage corporate defendants being published.

The $2 million claim filed in August on behalf of Kathleen Wiley would seem to be just such a case. The lawsuit names the Stryker Corporation, Samaritan Hospital, Northeast Health, Inc., Burdett Orthopedics and Joseph Marotta, M.D.

The notice says: “The nature of this action is products liability, medical malpractice and negligence. The relief sought is compensatory and punitive damages in the sum of $2,000,000.”

For many years, keeping details out of filings to avoid publicity wasn’t necessary; the area’s newspapers, while receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising revenue from medical providers, simply ignored the lawsuits. But now that many of those lawsuit are and will continue to be reported here, some attorneys apparently are trying to limit the amount of information that is available to the public.

But this tactic often will only delay the dissemination of plaintiffs’ allegations. Because providers routinely fight every claim, a large amount of information eventually has to be filed, particularly if motions are served. Motions usually have attached as exhibits copies of many of the documents previously exchanged in the action – including the initial complaint.

The plaintiff’s lawyer in the $2-million claim is Kevin Luibrand of Latham. This case will be added to those being tracked and further details will appear here as they become available.