In 2014 it seemed that every time I picked up a newspaper or tuned in to a news channel, GM’s recalls due to the faulty ignition switches, dominated the news. So much so that any Certified Legal Nurse Consultant would presume there was a virtual tsunami of litigation against GM.
As a recent article in the New York Times stated, the victims of crashes related to the defect may have a difficult time finding a law firm to take on GM unless the damages are significant.
A products liability case can cost $300,000-$1,000,000 dollars to pursue, so such cases are out of the reach of all but the most experienced and well-funded attorneys and law firms. These attorneys also happen to be the most selective attorneys in the industry. Economics is one of the important factors that influence the cases they choose.
Legal nurse consultants know that their job is to help screen out nonmeritorious cases, but what is a CLNC® consultant to do when a clearly meritorious case can’t find an attorney? First appreciate that practicing law is a business and a plaintiff attorney’s decision to take or reject a case will naturally be influenced by the potential financial return. Second, recognize that attorneys have feelings too; they simply can’t accept every case that walks through their door. I learned this lesson the hard way.
I sat in on an interview with a prospective plaintiff whose surgeon had performed a radical mastectomy, removing two healthy breasts, based on an erroneous pathology report. The victim had undergone reconstructive surgery, so to the plaintiff attorney she looked normal. And he believed it would be difficult to convince a jury of her damages. Bottom line, he rejected the case. I was heartbroken for the woman and I couldn’t help but wonder if the attorney’s reaction would have been the same if portions of male anatomy had been hacked off.
My feelings aside, that case taught me that practicing law is a business. Attorneys have to pay employees, report to partners and stress over the bottom-line. When you screen a case in your legal nurse consulting business, you need to put your personal sympathies aside. It’s sometimes hard to do and you will consult on cases that break your heart, but sympathy alone won’t get the case to a just outcome. You need recoverable damages too.
I’m Just Sayin’
P.S. Comment and share your heartbreaking cases and how you dealt with them.