Letters to the Editor • Healthcare Industry

Bad Doctors and the Law

I may have posted this before but it may not have made it through the system as I was having computer problems. So, here it is again: I had a recent very bad experience with a doctor in Prescott. The experience was so bad that I filed a Small Claims Court suit against him for the amount of his bill. The idea of Small Claims court is a place where the two litigants can come together and say their piece to a neutral party with no lawyers and have that 3rd party make an impartial decision. For small amounts, what could be simpler? But that is not the way it works in reality. Because of rule A.R.S. § 22-504(A), either party can request that the case be moved to Civil Court. If one side has more money than the other side, this is what they do. This totally negates the purpose of the Small Claims Court in the majority of cases. This is particularly true when suing a doctor. It is pretty clear to me that this rule was put there by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers because once you are in the system your opponents lawyer can intimidate you to agreeing to a settlement where you pay far more than your original suit was for. This is because Civil Court is expensive and if you lose, you pay for everything, your lawyer, their lawyer, damages, court costs and witness fees and maybe even more. In addition, they will make you agree that you will make no disparaging remarks about the doctor in any venue. This trumps freedom of speech and keeps people from finding out the truth about a given doctor. This should not be allowed to be a negotiating item ever. Mediation Hearing Courts will often offer informal mediation where the two parties will try to work out their differences to avoid the cost of going to court. Unlike Small Claims court, mediation hearings do allow lawyers and others to be in attendance. If one does attend without a lawyer, one is at a disadvantage as any slip of the tongue will be used against you by the other side. If the other side thinks they have a strong case, then they will refuse to negotiate which increases the pressure on you to settle on their terms. The liars: Another issue to contend with is the fact that the other side will lie. While lying on the stand or in a prepared statement is to be expected, one will also have to contend with the fact that they will falsify documents to make the documents, like one's medical record for instance, say what they want them to say. This is difficult for people who bring an honest complaint to the courts as proving that a particular document is fraudulent is expensive and difficult to do. Finding a lawyer The next problem one has is to find a lawyer. As there are many lawyers then there should be no problem, right? Not so. Because there are no lawyers in Prescott who handle cases involving bad doctors be it unprofessional behavior, negligence or outright malpractice, one is therefore forced to find one in Phoenix or Flagstaff. Most attorneys specialize in various fields of law such as wills, probate, real estate and the like. What one needs to find are lawyers that specialize in malpractice or personal injury when suing a doctor. This narrows the field quite a bit. Once you have a selection of lawyers you now need to find one who will take your case. Many won't take a case for various reasons such as; they are too busy, you have a weak case such that they are not assured victory, you have no monetary credit and other factors. If you have legal insurance, the field is even smaller. If you are lucky you find a lawyer that will take your case. When that happens you will be informed that you must pay a retainer of around $3,000 to $4,000, $250 per hour for doing anything such as driving to and from Phoenix and Prescott, appearing in court, or reading any documentation at $10 per page. One wonders what happens if someone cannot find a lawyer to defend them within a judicial system that is so Byzantine that it cannot be understood or properly used by the uninitiated. Fortunately, I have not experienced that, yet. Finding people who have had experiences like yours (witnesses) The Internet is very helpful in many ways. One can find reviews of doctors on various doctor review sites and help with finding lawyers. This can be helpful in supporting your case if you find someone who has had a similar experience as yours. The problem is that there is often no way to get in touch with them as they often use a pseudo name. On the occasion that one does find such people, they often refuse to write a statement or to testify as they don't want to get involved. Summary Basically what I have described is a system that supports those with more money than you and justice is incidental, if it happens at all. One cannot get a fair hearing if the other side drives a case to a cost level where one has to bet their future and all of their savings just on a slim chance that they will prevail in court. Therefore, most will reach some kind of deal where they will agree to not criticize the doctor in a public forum and the doctor continues on a little richer because of the settlement you are forced to make which will include some form of financial "compensation." Clearly then, the only way to successfully sue a doctor is if there is a well-documented case of serious injury or death. One solution to this kind of thing is to nationalize the legal profession and have only taxes pay for the courts for individuals, but not businesses or corporations. If this ever happens then many more justifiable cases will be brought against those who deserve it without regard to the cost. It is utopian I know so I won't get my hopes up. As you may have guessed, the above describes my situation at the moment. I am suing a doctor here in Prescott AZ for outrageous behavior and during the course of this process I have found all the things that I have described above. There must be some better way to complain about doctors without such a cost burden and thus have them reviewed. Maybe the State Licensing Board? Maybe not. There are three cases against this doctor now that were ultimately closed for various reasons, but one cannot find out what their investigation revealed nor why the cases were closed nor what action was taken, if any. There is still one open case against that doctor and that is mine. I don't expect much though. Ultimately I am planning a website to out these doctor with lists of resources for people who have had problems such as mine. To be fair though, the plan is to let a doctor know of a complaint against them and then be given a chance to respond in their defense as some people are just vindictive and unfair. Though things seem bleak on the lawsuit battle field at the moment, you can help. If you have had a bad experience with a doctor in Prescott let's talk and maybe something can be done about this. You can email me at doctor@altairseven.com Thanks in advance

3 Comments in Response to

Comment by Doug Nusbaum
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Testing formatting More of test

Comment by Doug Nusbaum
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I have almost always won in small claims court. I had occasion to file a complaint here in vegas against a physician and I think that he got a warning from the state board. I once went back to a doctor, showed him his receptionist my newly installed toe as a thumb, and told him that if he wanted to sue to collect his bill for telling me that such a procedure was doomed to failure, then I would see him in court. I never heard from him again. I was in arbitration once. We one on, and lost one. (We should not have lost even that one --- but oh well.) Anyway, the other side wanted us to pay their lawyers fees of 20K. They got ZERO. Our side had only me and evidence. Simple cases backed by evidence usually carry the day. I do not know what your claim is, or what evidence you have. If you can contact me I may be able to help. You can probably find help on the internet. AND YOU SHOULD GET HELP. You did not order your paper well. Appearances count

Comment by Doctor Xx
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This piece was originally formatted properly into more readable paragraphs via MS Word, but after copying it into Freedom's Phoenix for posting, it lost all of its formatting. I have looked everywhere for a means of editing it but have found nothing. If you know of a way to edit this, please let me know. Thanks...


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