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University scolded for interfering in medical malpractice case

When an institution such as a hospital is sued for medical malpractice, it is likely that the plaintiff in the case will have an expert witness to testify against the hospital. Expert testimony is often heavily relied upon in cases of malpractice or hospital negligence. But what if the doctor called on to be an expert witness by the plaintiff's attorneys is employed by an organization affiliated with the hospital?

In a recent case involving the University of New Mexico, a suit was filed against Lovelace Health System, which is affiliated with the school. The plaintiff in the case planned to have a forensic pathologist testify as an expert witness. The pathologist, however, works for the Office of the Medical Investigator -- which is also affiliated with the school.

As a result, a university attorney contacted the doctor's superiors in an attempt to convince him to decommit to testifying. The attorney apparently had the support of the chancellor of the school's Health Services Center to do so; ultimately, the doctor decided not to testify. He cited the fact that he was up for a promotion as one of the reasons for not wanting to wade into controversy.

Ultimately, a district court judge imposed a sanction of $100,000 against the regents of the university, saying that they had ordered the attorney to act improperly; the ruling was upheld by a recent Court of Appeals ruling.

Regardless of the twists and turns that a medical malpractice case might take, it is often important to have experienced attorneys in order to argue that case effectively.

Source: The Durango Herald, "Court right to fine UNM regents for intimidation," Carol J. Huser, Oct. 13, 2013

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