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Judge decries plaintiff’s ‘chutzpah’

Chief U.S. District Judge James Jones of the Western District clearly was unimpressed with one medical malpractice plaintiff’s efforts to preserve a $150,000 offer of judgment in the face of damaging disclosures.

Information about the plaintiff’s painkiller habit was a “bombshell” said the judge, describing efforts to minimize the impact of the disclosure as “pure and simple chutzpah.”

The defendant hospital put the money on the table to try to settle a hospital infection claim. With an “offer of judgment,” a defendant can make a formal offer. If the plaintiff rejects it, and fails to get as much at trial, the plaintiff is on the hook for defense costs.

The day after the hospital’s offer, however, the plaintiff turned over documents showing he had been getting painkillers from multiple doctors, contradicting his statements to his surgeon.

The hospital’s insurance company saw the revelation as a game changer – it promptly sought to withdraw its offer. The plaintiff argued it was just an oversight in discovery – he wanted to accept the offer. Jones disagreed:

The plaintiff’s efforts to minimize the importance of the withheld information are pure and simple chutzpah. The likelihood that the plaintiff is a pill addict who has lied to his physician about it, is, as the defendant properly characterizes it, a “bombshell.”

In a published opinion, Jones allowed the hospital to withdraw its offer and directed the clerk to set the case for trial as soon as convenient.

By Peter Vieth

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