One Surprising Discovery Won Me an Attorney-Client for Life
by Jane Hurst, RN, CLNC
After 15 years as a full-time Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, my most memorable case isn’t one I worked hundreds of hours on. It isn’t one that challenged my CLNC® expertise to the limits. This case is memorable because what I discovered stunned my attorney-client and his staff. More important, my participation had a huge impact on the outcome and dramatically enhanced my financial success.
I remember this case as if it were yesterday. A few years after I began my business, I received a call from an attorney who was referred by one of my regular attorney-clients. He asked me to review the medical records and provide him with an opinion and a report. He also wanted some authoritative articles that would support his position. I agreed and asked him to tell me about the case.
There was no way she could have forgotten that she voluntarily had her tubes tied after the birth of her third child. Did this woman think everyone was stupid? On the other hand, she might have been able to pull this off. If her attorney hadn’t hired me and if the defense wasn’t working with a CLNC® consultant, her deception might never have been discovered.
Mysterious Fertility Issue Sparked a Call from a New Attorney
The potential plaintiff, Mary Jones, was a healthy 26-year-old woman with three young children. When she was 17, she had a child, married the father and had two more children. The marriage ended after six years. The father dropped from sight and didn’t contribute anything financially. Mary had to support herself and her children by working two jobs. She also put herself through a community college and earned an associates degree. She met and married a man who loved her children as if they were his own. Because they were both still young, the husband dreamed of having children with Mary.
Soon after her second marriage, Mary had an abnormal Pap smear result. Her OB/GYN recommended a cervical conization as both a diagnostic tool and a treatment for the abnormal cells. The conization was performed and the doctor told her he thought that would take care of all the abnormal cervical cells.
For more than a year after that, Mary and her new husband tried to have a baby. Concerned that he was the problem, the husband underwent testing and learned that everything was in working order. Mary went to a new OB/GYN, who concluded that she probably wasn’t able to become pregnant because of the cervical conization procedure. He explained that sometimes this procedure can impair a woman’s fertility.
Mary said she was not informed about reduced fertility as a possible risk. She decided to seek legal counsel and pursue a case against the OB/GYN who performed the cervical conization.
My CLNC Expertise Paid Off with a Priceless Discovery
I asked my attorney-client to send me all the medical records he had and to obtain all her old records from every physician and hospital she had used. When he told me his paralegal had already summarized the records, I asked him to include the summary as well.
I always enjoy reading summaries prepared by the attorney’s staff. Some paralegals write good summaries (to the best of their ability); others omit important information. I always point out these omissions to my new attorney-clients, being careful not to insult the paralegal.
After reading the summary, I thought Mary Jones’s case was going to be very interesting. When I spoke to the attorney, I could almost see dollar signs in his eyes. He was undoubtedly thinking what a great witness Mary would make. Everything so far pointed to a successful case.
As usual, I took several pages of notes during my meeting with the attorney, then rolled up my sleeves and started my review. I was eager to find the consent form for the cervical conization. The first step was to organize the bundle of records from the hospital. I reviewed piles of progress notes and nursing notes, but I couldn’t find the consent form. If the hospital had withheld it, maybe something fishy was going on.
I continued organizing, tackling the old medical records next. Other than three uncomplicated deliveries and an occasional ED visit, Mary hadn’t had any unusual medical problems. I separated the OB records for each child.
I was working on the third child’s records when I came across the key piece of evidence that made this case so memorable. I remember staring at it, absolutely flabbergasted. Everyone in my attorney-client’s office had missed this. I could just imagine the defense having this information and my attorney being clueless. If the defense found this piece of paper, the case would be over.
I looked at the paper again and read the heading in bold type across the top of the page: Consent for Sterilization.
I was speechless. Mary Jones, this nice young woman, was trying to put one over on both the OB/GYN who treated her and my attorney-client who was prepared to fight tooth and nail for her – and maybe on her new husband as well. Did the husband think they couldn’t have a baby because of the conization? There was no way she could have forgotten that she voluntarily had her tubes tied after the birth of her third child. Did this woman think everyone was stupid? On the other hand, she might have been able to pull this off. If her attorney hadn’t hired me and if the defense wasn’t working with a CLNC consultant, her deception might never have been discovered.
After I regained my composure, I called my attorney-client and set up a meeting. I wanted to show him this evidence in person and see the look on his face.
Surprising the Attorney Proved to Be an Economic Windfall
The attorney had one of his partners and the paralegal attend our meeting. He mentioned how surprised he was that I had completed this legal nurse consultant job so quickly. I thought to myself, He has no idea how quickly.
I began by summarizing the facts of the case. Then I said I had discovered something very interesting. I could tell by the look on my attorney-client’s face that he assumed it was something favorable to the case.
I pulled out the consent for sterilization and told him it was a good thing I’d reviewed the records, because if the defense had this form, he might have wound up with egg on his face. My attorney-client couldn’t thank me enough for finding the information. He told me he would never work on another case without having me on his team.
Later, the attorney met with Mary to tell her why he wouldn’t be able to take her case. I wasn’t there, but I heard that her husband was present. He apparently was unaware of Mary’s sterilization.
I didn’t make a lot of money from this case review but in the long run, it was an economic windfall. Because I proved my worth to the attorney, I now have a very devoted attorney-client who is also very busy.
This case demonstrates the importance of using the services of a CLNC consultant on every medical-related case. We possess skills and knowledge the attorneys and their paralegals don’t have and definitely need. This case was far from challenging, but it did remind me that often what I consider obvious isn’t obvious at all to my attorney-clients. On those occasions my CLNC expertise is priceless.
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