The Basics of Medical Negligence
Interviewer: What is medical negligence?
Bill Levinson: Any time a healer departs from the standard of care for his particular art, and he injures someone, that would be medical negligence.
Interviewer: What’s the difference between medical malpractice and medical negligence?
Bill Levinson: Nothing.
Interviewer: It’s pretty much the same thing?
Bill Levinson: It’s identical.
Interviewer: How often do these sorts of cases occur? Would you say it’s a regular deal?
Bill Levinson: Regular deal. In a month I may get four or five calls, sometimes more, from people who believe that they have been the victims of a negligent act by a healer.
Alternative Medicine And Medical Negligence.
Interviewer: When you were talking about any sort of healer, does that include holistic healers, also? I’m just wondering because I live close to Austin and there’s a lot of that going on.
Bill Levinson: I have never been approached to do a medical negligence case against a naturopath, or an acupuncturist, or something that’s really alternative medicine. The farthest out that I’ve gotten is chiropractic.
Interviewer: In regards to more alternative medicines. You mentioned acupuncture, and that’s curious because more and more these days, I’m seeing acupuncture clinics pop up. I’ve visited acupuncture clinics in the past. I’ve noticed that a lot of them are performed by individuals that receive, maybe, about two years training, because I’ve spoken to some of these individuals that are, for the most part nowadays, American. They’re telling me about learning about Chinese medicine, and all that, but I’ve more recently heard about some horror stories in regards to acupuncture. Do you think that’s something that’s going to be a little bit more prevalent in the future? As that starts popping up, will those kinds of cases be acceptable within the medical negligence realm?
Bill Levinson: It’s a difficult thing to say, because number one, the act is so innocuous. I suppose you might have a situation where a needle is not cleaned properly, and you might have an infection. I can’t foresee acupuncture as a potential for malpractice. I’ve never even consulted about something like that. There’s a thing we learned in law school: never generalize from your own experience. That’s something I would be very surprised at. I’d be very surprised. Also, to be frank, I don’t know. I’ve had acupuncture, and maybe I didn’t go long enough or what, but I didn’t think it did anything for me.
I’ve had years of a bad back.
Interviewer: There are people that don’t recognize acupuncture as a legit form of medical practice.
Bill Levinson: I don’t see how they can do that. You just can’t open up and start saying you’re an acupuncturist. You have to be licensed. People say the same thing about chiropractic and naturopathic medicine. Whatever makes people well is going to do fine.
Examples of Medical Negligence
Interviewer: What are some examples of medical negligence?
Bill Levinson: I have a chiropractic negligence case going right now, in which we allege that the doctor used extraordinary and unnecessary force and he herniated the disc of his patient. I just got through doing a dental negligence case in which a dentist was given a scope of work and when the patient was done, he had to go have everything redone, including more work, because of the negligence of the dentist. I’ve done orthodontic surgery negligence against both an orthodontist and an oral surgeon where the orthodontist prescribed exactly the opposite for the condition that my client should have had, and then the orthodontist wrote a prescription for surgery that made it permanently worse.
Let’s see. Those are three specifics offhand that I can remember because of their recency, but I’ve had an occasion to pursue an anesthesiologist because when he did the intubation, he couldn’t get it right, and while he was doing it he broke off one of my client’s teeth in the front of her mouth.
We looked at one in which a mentally-slow individual who is – I won’t say paraplegic, because he could feel his legs – but he went in for care because he fell and he broke one of his legs, and he was treated in a hospital in which they were required to put a sort of tourniquet on his leg, and then they casted him and bandaged him. It was too tight, but he couldn’t tell. His parents were in repeatedly asking the folks who were taking care of the young man about the way his foot looked, and they paid no attention. Ultimately he had to have the leg amputated.
I’m going to make you sick if I keep going.
Client Emotional States
Interviewer: I can imagine it becomes quite difficult sometimes, especially dealing with clients and their emotional state. What have you observed about that? I could imagine they’re pretty upset.
Bill Levinson: Yeah, when it happens to them or happens to a loved one, they’re really angry, and they get really, really angry when I tell them that we’re not going to pursue the case. I can’t tell you the number of true negligence cases that are not pursued because of the unbelievable expense that it takes to do a medical negligence case.
Interviewer: Have you ever had a client that’s had difficulties after it’s said and done? Have you had clients that have had difficulties trusting medical authorities due to the case?
Bill Levinson: I think that’s an obvious “yes.” There’s nothing we can do about it.
I caution a lot of my clients. They’ll come in for a car wreck, but a side issue will come up – cancer or whatever. I’m asked to advise with this peripheral issue, or a client will say to me, “I’ve got this opinion, and I don’t know what to do.” That’s very frequent, and I tell them, “Get two or three more.” Absolutely, don’t go by the first opinion.
Some Common Medical Negligence Cases
Interviewer: Are there any particular kinds of cases within medical negligence that are common or that you see more often?
Bill Levinson: It’s hard to say, because they’re unique, but I would say probably surgery, anesthesiology, diagnosis, misdiagnosis. Those are probably the ones that I seem to think are more frequent than others.
Interviewer: In your experience, between doctors and hospitals, nurses, nursing homes, dentists, chiropractors, pharmacists, and the like, what have you seen get a high percentage of cases filed against them, as far as medical professionals go?
Bill Levinson: Medical doctors, I would say. Medical doctors, hospitals, and their surrounding crews, because everybody gets sued if somebody has a bad result. Nowadays the doctors are not employees of the hospital. The doctors are independent contractors. The nurses are employees of the hospitals, and of course, the hospitals themselves are there, and to the extent that their staff gets involved, they are involved.
Interviewer: What about cases that involve machinery or wheelchairs, for instance. Would that still be considered medical negligence or malpractice?
Bill Levinson: No. I have one now against King County Metro where they’re wheelchair-equipped, and my client, who travels frequently on buses and on this particular route frequently, is lifted onto the bus, and they have an anchoring system. For whatever reason, her chair wasn’t anchored properly. There was a fairly severe movement of the bus and she fell and hurt herself badly. She was already an injured person, and she hurt herself badly. The lawsuit is against the county, and they have not pled a manufacturing defect on the anchor, so it’s just negligence on the driver for failing to anchor my client.