At the invitation of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s risk manager and director of patient safety, Neil Rosen recently spoke to physicians associated with UPMC about being deposed as a defendant during the discovery phase of medical malpractice litigation. Rosen, who almost exclusively represents plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases, cautioned those in attendance that they should take their deposition very seriously, as a poor performance makes defense of the case more difficult and increases the value of the case from the victim’s perspective.
Rosen’s main thrust was to emphasize that physicians should adequately prepare when they are about to be deposed as a defendant. After briefly explaining what happens at a deposition, Rosen informed his audience that anything said is response to questioning becomes a permanent part of the record of any malpractice case. Although defendant-physicians could later change their testimony, they would be forced to explain any such changes, a situation that any experienced civil litigator can exploit by, at a minimum, seriously undermining the credibility of the doctor.
Rosen explained that all successful attorneys who represent plaintiffs understand the importance of a defendant-doctor’s deposition and, accordingly, take preparation very seriously. That preparation includes a thorough review of the patient’s entire medical record pertaining to the incident in question. As a result, it is also incumbent on the defendant doctor to conduct a similar review of the record. Rosen also informed the audience that preparation by him includes extensive medical research on the issues involved so that doctors being deposed should be prepared for questions from an attorney who has much more than a mere cursory understanding of the medicine involved.
As a part of the program, a reenactment of an edited actual deposition taken by Rosen was performed, with Rosen pointing out a number of common mistakes made by defendant-doctors. The program, which was attended by well over 100 physicians, nurses, and risk managers and lasted ninth minutes, concluded with a question and answer period.