Medical Malpractice Suit Threatened by Vanishing Doctor May 29, 2010.

Not all medical malpractice suits are created equal, especially when the doctor vanishes.

This is a rather unusual case that we heard about; an instance where the doctor being sued for medical malpractice took off for parts unknown, which meant he could not be served within the 120 day period required by the law.

The story behind this odd case is that the obstetrician was a confirmed drug addict, just about to admit himself to a drug treatment facility, when he delivered a baby. The mother, Dawn Storer (names have been changed to protect the identity of the family) sued the doctor for severe nerve damage to her son’s left arm; a result of the baby’s shoulder being jammed under the mother’s pubic bone while being delivered.

Unfortunately, the results of the baby’s arm being caught during his birth left him with a weak, atrophied appendage, with a limited range of motion. The lawsuit stated the doctor was addicted to hydrocodone and Valium. When the suit was filed, the Storers had 120 days to serve the doctor with the findings of their medical expert. Despite numerous attempts to find him, he had seemingly vanished into thin air.

As the search for him continued, it came to light that this physician had lost his license to practice in 2000 as a result of drug abuse and had also lost his home and been evicted from two other places he lived. Even the doctor’s lawyers couldn’t locate him. Things were not looking good for the court case to proceed in any manner and a settlement was obviously on thin ice as well, as there was a question about whether he had paid his medical malpractice insurance.

The doctor’s attorneys asked to have the case dismissed since the deadline would not be met. The court denied the request because it was not the Storer’s fault they couldn’t find the doctor. This case went on appeal where the Appellate Court said no time extensions and no exceptions would be made in the matter. The Storer’s are now appealing to the Supreme Court in their home state.

"In most instances, things in a medical malpractice suit won’t get this wild. While they may get complicated and the case is time consuming and involves medical experts, it will still eventually make its way to settlement or a jury verdict. In addition, in most med mal cases, the doctor’s insurance company will be fighting to keep the expenses down, provided the doctor ‘did’ keep his malpractice insurance current," said Christopher Mellino, a medical malpractice lawyer, of the Mellino Law Firm LLC, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Cases such as this one are thankfully rare, but that doesn’t address how the Storers will obtain justice for the harm done to their son at birth. "There may be other options open for them, but they would need to discuss that with their med mal attorney. For instance, it may be possible to sue the hospital instead if they were not initially named in the lawsuit in the first place," added Mellino.

When in doubt about what happens when a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed, take the time to speak to a Cleveland medical malpractice lawyer to find out what options there are, what alternative may exist, and what the expected outcome of a medical negligence case may be.

"There is one thing that is important to remember," stated Mellino, of the Mellino Law Firm LLC, in Cleveland, Ohio, "and that is not every bad outcome to a medical event is considered to be medical malpractice."