Successfully defending a medical malpractice case often hinges on the credibility of the medical staff and their details regarding a patient’s treatment. In a 2015 medical malpractice trial over a patient’s debilitating spinal injury, Wade Copeland delivered a compelling argument on credibility to clear a Georgia pain management doctor.
Mittie Anglin underwent surgery for cauda equina syndrome, a serious spinal compression condition, days after receiving a pain management injection from Dr. Stephanie Smith. Anglin, whose ability to walk and engage in daily activities was limited because of the compression, contended Smith should have referred her for emergency treatment following the pain injection because her condition had clearly worsened.
“This case really isn’t that complicated,” Copeland, of Atlanta’s Carlock Copeland, said during closings. “It comes down to which side do you believe? Do you believe Dr. Smith? Do you believe the doctors who testified? Do you believe the nurses? Do you believe the medical records?”
Copeland used those questions as the springboard for outlining the evidence he said showed Anglin’s condition did not bear the tell-tale signs of cauda equina syndrome, including an inability to walk.
Copeland said nurses evaluated Anglin’s condition, including her ability to walk before discharge.. “We’re not talking about an O-ring in a NASA missile here,” Copeland said, countering plaintiff arguments that those records may not have been accurate. “We’re talking about whether somebody wrote down whether somebody could walk or not. That’s not the type of mistake you can make. It’s not writing down the wrong number.”
Copeland emphasized that the treating professionals, including non-party nurses who evaluated Anglin, corroborated both the records and one another’s version of events. “Do you really think that this is some circling of the wagons?” Copeland asked.
Copeland noted those nurses all agreed Anglin’s condition had not deteriorated. “Every one of (the nurses) said the discharge criteria was, '(Anglin) had to show she could walk, and if she’s having excess pain we’re going to call Dr. Smith,' and Dr. Smith says 'If she’s having those problems, we’re going to send her right over to the emergency room.' And that did not happen.”
“You’re going to have to decide which side you believe in this case,” Copeland told the jury. “You saw the people on the witness stand. You also saw who brought you the evidence in this case,” Copeland said, noting the experts he presented. “You can put two and two together and figure out what really happened here.”
Jurors found for Smith against a claim where plaintiff’s attorneys requested more than $6.3 million.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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