I took the elevator to the 15th floor of the William Donald Schaefer Tower and handed a legal envelope to a clerk in the Maryland Health Claims Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. It was quarter to four on March 24th 2005. The three year statute of limitations for Pam’s malpractice case against Johns Hopkins would expire in an hour and forty five minutes. Because we couldn’t get a new lawyer so close to the deadline, we had to file the lawsuit ourselves, and then try to get a lawyer to take over.
The clerk took my check for the filing fee and time-stamped 4 copies of the twenty page complaint I’d printed out on my home computer a few hours earlier. She handed me my copy. “Hopkins, huh?” she said. “Watch out.”
I laughed a little. I thought she was kidding.
I have no legal training, so my plan was simple and straightforward. We put all our cards on the table. Our whole case was clearly spelled out and documented in the complaint. In addition to standard language about negligence and causation, there was a beefy informed consent case, made up mostly of professional appraisals from Calkins himself variously describing the procedure as dangerous, unproven, unsafe and ineffective.
A jury would have to believe that a rational person would have agreed to an operation if a doctor had told them all these things.
Hopkins had farmed the case out to Mairi Pat Maguire, a former RN, an nurse gone bad in my book by way of turning into a corporate defense lawyer, the two professions being at the very opposite of the spectrum for compassion, humanity and morals.
The case languished in the Health Claims Dispute Resolution Office for three years while Mairi Pat argued that it should be thrown out because we didn’t have an expert witness. I was trying to find a lawyer all that time, but it turns out lawyers don’t like Informed Consent cases or Pro Se cases. Finally, we had to withdraw from arbitration and file the case in Circuit court, where it was summarily dismissed because we didn’t have an expert witness.
But as I read the law, you didn’t need an expert witness for an informed consent case to get into court, and once you got there, you could call the defendant doctor as your witness. I found a lawyer who agreed and who filed and won an appeal.
Please look at my posts regarding "expert witnesses." These people went through the exact same thing as I did, and my judge threw my case out too, even though it was clearly a res ipsa about the informed consent. I too had to do my own tort against the hospital. I too couldn't get a lawyer to follow through on this case, nor could I get any other lawyer to take it up. So much for the NEED for tort reform, huh!