Many people who hear I’m a lawyer think I’m always focused on one thing: suing whoever I can. As a lawyer who handles personal injury and nursing home negligence cases, I guess ‘suing’ or sort of goes with the territory. But the truth both as a lawyer and as a businessman I want to pursue meritorious cases where the filing of a lawsuit actually serves the purpose of getting compensation for my clients.
Most non-lawyers fail to recognize that the filing of lawsuits– and the entire litigation process is a time consuming and expensive process. Since I handled cases on a contingency fee basis, unless there is an obvious benefit to my client– I’m generally not inclined to spend thousands of dollar and pour in weeks, months — or (gulp) years worth of work. Similarly, with cases involving questionable liability– what the person we’re pursing did wrongly or negligently– I’m generally inclined not to pursue the matter in court.
Not every case is worth pursuing
There’s a false assumption that ‘every case’ has some value to it. In the sphere of personal injury law, I’ve quickly learned that grasping for straws is a great way for determining who’s going to clean up the dishes, but employing such technique for the prosecution of nursing home lawsuits is unethical and just plain bad business.
I began to consider the entire idea of being selective with my cases, when I read about a recently filed Chicago nursing home lawsuit involving a case filed on behalf of a 92-year-old woman. As reported by CBS2 “2 Investigators: 57 Maggots Removed From Nursing Home Patient’s Ear”, the lawsuit alleges that Lutheran Home for the Aged (Arlington Heights, IL) was responsible for allowing a fly to lays eggs in the woman’s ear canal. Apparently the eggs hatched and 57 maggots were festering in the woman’s ear for an estimated two or three days.
Disgusting? Yes. Value? Probably Not.
While my reaction to such stories are similar to anyone else’s in that this is a simply disgusting situation, the attorney in me can’t help but think about the damages aspect (or lack thereof) the the case. According to news reports of the situation, the woman (who is unable to speak) was seen tugging at her ear for a couple of days leading to the maggot discovery. Similarly, the maggots were removed by doctors at a nearby hospital without any significant interventions. While no discussion in the news, I also assume that this woman will make a full recovery.
All in all, this situation shouts at me ‘nuisance value’. Sure the situation was disgusting for the patient (which could arguable be disputed based on the woman’s diminished capacity) and the family. Sure the woman required some medical attention. Sure the maggots may have caused her some discomfort.
Do these factors merit some type of compensation?
Perhaps, but I would suggest not much.
There are plenty of reasons to take– or reject a particular case. However, as a lawyer who genuinely attempts to bring lawsuits that will actually benefit the family or individual involved, cases such as this actually due a disservice to the families in situations where there indeed as a horrific injury as I would humbly suggest that an incident such as this both desensitizes the jury pool and frankly brings a negative connotation to a pervasive feeling that lawyers are willing to file a lawsuit over pretty much anything.
But who knows? When a jury awards mega-money to this family, I will most definitely eat my words.
For further discussion on the status of nursing home litigation in Illinois look here.
For laws related to Illinois nursing homes, look here.