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Virginia’s Go To Lawyers – Medical Malpractice: Brewster Rawls

Brewster RawlsBrewster Rawls
Founder, Rawls Law Group
Richmond

Education:

JD, T.C. Williams School of Law, University of Richmond
BA, Wake Forest University

Best known for:

Although I now do exclusively plaintiffs’ cases, I was a defense lawyer for 30 years. As such, I was never hesitant to try a case, even very tough ones. That approach has carried over since I switched to representing patients. I have probably gone to trial in well over 100 medical malpractice cases. There are not many, if any, on either side who can say they have done more. I didn’t win them all. No lawyer who is being honest can make that claim. However, I can say that I won more cases that I should have lost compared to losing cases that I should have won.

For over 20 years, I have also handled Federal Tort Claims Act cases relating to medical malpractice at VA, military and Indian Health Service facilities. We are one of the few firms which do such cases nationwide and we have developed considerable expertise in this area.

The range of cases I have handled is a very wide one. However, I have always had a special interest in matters involving the failure to diagnose cancer. Psychiatric cases have also been an interest of mine. I like the challenge of those sorts of cases.

Signature case / representation:

In 2020, I obtained the largest verdict in Virginia. True, it was 2020, but a $6,500,000 medical malpractice verdict is still noteworthy. So was the $10,000,000 one I got in 2021.

In all fairness, over 20 years before my recent victories, I was also in a case which involved a huge malpractice verdict, $25,000,000. As the defense lawyer, however, I was one the receiving end of that one. Not quite as much fun, but a very good learning experience.

Satisfying aspect of practice:

Trying cases is the obvious answer, but I also love analyzing cases and figuring out the best strategy. Maybe that goes back to doing so many case evaluations as a defense lawyer. I still find myself doing a written analysis, albeit a more informal one. It’s quite satisfying — and also fascinating to see how those projections actually play out.

Working with clients:

Risk benefit analysis. In every case you have to weigh the relative risks of strategies and actions. Clients need to appreciate there is always a risk of a bad outcome, even in very strong cases. I think it is important to be very direct with clients. They may not want to hear what you have to say, but it’s your absolute duty to give honest and understandable advice — and that always includes risk.

Advice:

At one of my first medical malpractice trials as a young lawyer I was having lunch with the co-defendant’s lawyer, Harry Thompson, and the two doctors. Harry was an old school Virginia gentleman who had been a B-24 bomber pilot in WWII. While happily consuming his hamburger and fries, Harry looked across at me and said: “Brewster, can you believe we get paid for having this much fun?” He meant it too, which is probably why the doctors looked like they were going to throw up. Harry was right. What we were doing was certainly stressful. It was hard work, but it was also great fun. I try hard not to forget that tidbit of wisdom.

Outlook:

Perhaps I am an optimist, but I would really like to see the damages cap removed either by judicial action or legislation.