Memorable CLNC® Cases

Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Shares Two Outstanding Experiences Helping Her Attorneys at Trial

by Suzanne E. Arragg, RN, BSN, CDONA/LTC, CLNC

During my 10+ years as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, I have been fortunate to have worked with a few of the most prestigious elder abuse attorney litigators in the U.S. Being a member of the trial team is an experience that for me epitomizes the world of legal nurse consulting. It is the high point of my CLNC® business and I consider it to be a privilege. While I could share many remarkable stories, two experiences stand out.

My attorney-client was so impressed with my argument, he turned to me and said, ‘Suzanne, you should be an attorney!’

The first experience was the second time I had been a part of a trial team. As a CLNC consultant, I worked the file inside and out, read thousands of pages of medical records, hundreds of pages of deposition transcripts and worked with the testifying experts in preparation for their trial testimony. Finally, we were in trial. I sat in the first row of the audience and, as my attorney-client instructed, passed notes to the bailiff who in turn gave them to my attorney-client. I watched plaintiff counsel put on their case. Finally, the plaintiff’s RN testifying expert was on the stand. Direct examination completed and cross examination had begun. I began to fervently write potential questions on my note pad and passed them along. Then the judge called for a break.

My attorney-client motioned for me to approach the defense table. He said, “Suzanne, take me through this line of questioning.” Point by point; I lead him through what I thought was a convincing defense clinical argument. Our goal was to “poke holes” in the plaintiff expert’s opinion. My attorney-client was so impressed with my argument, he turned to me and said, “Suzanne, you should be an attorney!” I was flattered and gasped all at the same time. I never thought I could use my nursing expertise to help a legal team. I have no desire to become an attorney, but I am sure thankful and excited to be a successful Certified Legal Nurse Consultant!

My second outstanding experience was as a testifying expert. I was asked to render my opinion regarding the nursing standard of care in a nursing home elder abuse case. The case surrounded a fall, fracture, skin tears and bruises. Many hours went into trial preparation. My opinions were laced into my defense-client’s opening presentation.

Finally, it was my turn to testify. The adrenaline was racing through my veins. Boy, was I pumped! Direct examination went well. Now it was plaintiff’s turn. Cross-examination proceeded fairly well. Counsel repeated questions previously asked and tried to change them in an attempt to trip me up. It wasn’t working. I could see he was becoming frustrated. The volume of his voice began to rise. All the while, I sat relaxed (so I’m told) in the witness chair.

Then came the line of questioning surrounding a dog bite that was sustained during routine pet visits. The resident had pet the dog, as he had so many times before, but this time the dog nipped him. The “bite” healed uneventfully. Because the attorney couldn’t rattle my cage, he blurted out the question, “What kind of dog was it, anyway?” I paused, but before an objection could be given, I responded, “That’s irrelevant.” The jury laughed, my attorney-client at the defense table smiled, and the plaintiff’s attorney was left speechless!

When I got the call that the jury had found for the defense, I was thrilled. My attorney-client was also thrilled with the verdict, and was especially thrilled with my testimony and appreciative of my input as a member of his trial team.

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