Hospital Seeks Gag Order in Medical Malpractice Case
Wilkes-Barre General is hoping to suppress any communications with the press regarding a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by the family of a father of three who died during surgery. They are also reportedly trying to seal the public docket. Meanwhile, attorneys for the plaintiff accuse the hospital of trying to censor the media. The gag order would remain in effect for up to two weeks before the trial and until the trial is concluded.
What is a Gag Order?
A gag order is a directive to all parties in a lawsuit that they must not communicate anything about the lawsuit while decisions are still being made. In most cases, this involves high-profile crimes or very famous defendants. It is seldom an issue in a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is generally required that at least one of the parties show evidence of “imminent harm” either to the litigants or the trial itself.
In this case, the plaintiffs have argued that the defendant hospital did not present any evidence of imminent harm and thus there is no reason to issue a gag order.
The hospital responded by alluding to a media consultant who when discussing the plaintiff’s case described the “abysmal incompetence” of the attending doctors and there was some indication that members of the press would be in attendance for the trial.
The concern, of course, is that the plaintiffs might circumvent the judicial process and disparage the defendants. If that is the case, then the judge has the discretion to issue a gag order.
The hospital is accused of leaving the patient unattended and then failing to respond to cardiac arrest because there was no one there to respond. Hospital personnel is accused of altering the patient’s medical records to absolve them of wrongdoing.
The hospital claims that the medical records were not altered and the patient received the prevailing standard of care for the industry.
If hospital employees altered the medical records of a patient to hide wrongdoing that could be illegal and considered forgery or fraud under the law. That means that they could be held criminally liable and also lose their licenses to practice medicine. None of that has happened so far, so the question of whether or not the documents were altered by staff will need to be decided by a jury.
The plaintiffs are angry about the treatment of their family member and are now talking to the press. If the court decides that this would taint the jury pool or otherwise impede the judicial process, the gag order could be placed on all parties.
Talk to a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligent practice of medicine, call the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorneys at Masterson, Hoag & Smith today to learn more about how we can help.