The Trial: Chapman v. Parikh.
The Attorney: Todd Miller, for the defendant.
The defense in a wrongful death medical malpractice case faces a mountain of hurdles, especially when the case involves the death of a child. The defense must overcome the jury's natural sympathy toward the plaintiff, as well as jurors' inclination to believe a litany of plaintiff experts second-guessing your defendant's medical decisions. Todd Miller's opening statement on behalf of Dr. Snehal Parikh is a powerful lesson in how to help the jury examine conflicting medical opinions with an objective, discerning eye.
The case stemmed from the death of Hailey Chapman, a developmentally-disabled 15 year old who died when portal vein thrombosis, a blood clotting condition, caused the bowel eschemia that destroyed her intestine. Hailey's parents sued Parikh, claiming that his failure to order a CT scan was a fatal mistake that breached the standard of care.
In a 25-minute opening delivered without notes, Miller walked jurors through Hailey's complicated medical background. Miller explained how Hailey showed no clear symptoms of bowel eschemia or thrombosis when Parikh examined her and that an X-ray the doctor ordered showed no signs of her deadly condition. After describing how rare thrombosis is in someone Hailey's age, Miller told jurors that doctors diagnose their patients on the most likely cause of symptoms: "When you hear horse hooves, you think horses. You don't think zebras," Miller said.
Perhaps most importantly, Miller expounded on that statement, contrasting each side's expert witness and highlighting his contention that there was no real evidence to warrant a CT scan at the time Parikh examined Hailey.
In a direct, concise opening, Miller explained to the jury complicated medical terminology and the difficult process of diagnosing a child's illness, urging the jury to sympathize with Hailey's family while still weighing the evidence objectively. Miller's cogent opening statement helped him win a verdict for his client.