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From the Closed Claim Files: A long journey

by David White

Working as a claim supervisor for TMLT since 2000, I have handled many memorable cases. When trying to decide which was the most memorable, I kept coming back to one that wasn’t complicated. It wasn’t outrageous or flashy. It wasn’t necessarily all that interesting.

It wasn’t the “baby talk” case, in which a 57-year-old teacher claimed she had a hypoxic brain injury from an allergic reaction to contrast during a cardiac catheterization. This injury caused her to exhibit bizarre, baby-like behavior. It wasn’t the case we tried in which the plaintiff’s attorney spoke to the jury from the point of view of the deceased patient’s heart. It wasn’t the case in which the plaintiff with the alleged back injury was videotaped riding a four-wheeler and performing rigorous yard work.

My most memorable case was not really all that memorable at all — except for one very important reason. It was important and memorable to our policyholder.

The case was tried in Houston in August 2011. Our policyholder was a board-certified ob-gyn who performed a bilateral tubal ligation on a 24-year-patient. She alleged that his improper performance of the procedure resulted in a bowel perforation and subsequent surgery to repair it. The ob-gyn had attended 2.5 days of trial before he had an opportunity to testify, or tell his side of the story. He had endured the inaccurate recollections of the plaintiff and the harsh criticism of her expert.

In anticipation of taking the stand, the ob-gyn experienced a momentary lapse of emotional fortitude. He took a walk out of the courtroom and down the hallway to the other side of the building. I gave him a moment, but then followed him out and provided some reassurance and encouragement. He quickly composed himself, returned to the courtroom, took the stand, and provided some of the most straightforward, honest, educational, and credible testimony I have ever seen.

As is often the case, the defendant’s performance on the stand was likely the determining factor in the case.

After closing arguments the next day, the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict after 35 minutes of deliberation. Of course, the ob-gyn was elated. He was relieved. He was so grateful to the entire defense team. He had gone from being vilified to being vindicated.

The experience with him out in the hallway really hit home for me just how important these claims are to the doctors, both personally and professionally. I think such an emotional experience reminds them that they have a true partner in TMLT and they genuinely appreciate everything we do for them, all the way to the courthouse.

Before driving back to Austin that evening, I briefly attended the celebration party at a local restaurant with the team. There’s nothing sweeter than being a part of that winning team and being there to experience it with the doctor and make that long journey complete.