A $4.25 million settlement in a 2011 medical malpractice lawsuit was back in the news this month. A judge in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, denied a request by one of the doctors and the hospital involved in the suit to seal the records.
The judge determined that the public's right to know the details of the case outweighed concerns voiced by the defendants' attorneys that allowing the information to be public would discourage other hospitals and physicians from settling malpractice cases. He also noted that the case had been widely reported on in the media, so many of the details were already in the public domain.
Suit: Doctors Failed to Diagnose Preeclampsia
The lawsuit involved a woman whose twins were stillborn back in 2009 at less than 35 weeks' gestation. According to the suit, because the woman's doctors didn't properly monitor her for a serious medical condition called preeclampsia, which causes blood pressure to rise, she suffered a seizure. That seizure, according to the suit, caused her placenta to become detached from the womb, killing her unborn daughters.
The plaintiff sued two Pennsylvania doctors, a physicians' network and a hospital. Although the two doctors did not agree to or contribute to the settlement, a global settlement was reached in the case. The woman has agreed to pay 35 percent of her portion of the settlement to the father of the twins.
Attorneys Can Work to Prevent Malpractice Settlements from Being Sealed
It's not surprising that medical providers would prefer to keep information about malpractice suits against them out of the news and to keep any details about a settlement private. However, malpractice suits don't always result in disciplinary actions against physicians by state medical boards. Even when they do, that information isn't always easy for potential patients trying to research a doctor to locate.
Therefore, it can be argued that information in malpractice cases where a settlement was reached should not be sealed. Medical malpractice attorneys can work to prevent cases from being sealed so that others may be saved the harm suffered by their clients at the hands of medical professionals.
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