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Virginia’s Go To Lawyers – Medical Malpractice: James B. Feinman

James B. FeinmanJames B. Feinman
Attorney, James B. Feinman, Attorney at Law
Lynchburg

Education:

JD, University of Virginia School of Law
BA, Washington and Lee University

Best known for:

I represent a wide variety of people seriously injured or killed by negligence in the medical field.

Signature case/representation:

One of my most significant medical malpractice cases was just after I opened my own firm in 1987. ?A woman called and told me her mother had been bitten by a tick, had a rash on her feet and hands, and was not diagnosed with or treated for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, because the doctor thought she had Legionnaire’s Disease. ?Without correct diagnosis and treatment, her mother went into a coma for a month-and-a-half, woke up paralyzed from the waist down, and?lost her hearing and bladder control because of the failure to diagnose and treat.

The woman told me she had been to “the five largest personal injury firms in Virginia and they all turned Mama’s case down because the doctor wrote in the Discharge Summary ‘…since there was no history of a tick bite, it was thought the patient had Legionnaire’s Disease’. ?But I told that doctor Mama had a tick bite and there was a nurse in there who heard me do it. No one will take the case because they say it’s word against word and the jury will believe the doctor.”

Two years had already passed since her mother was admitted to the hospital, but because she had been in a coma the statute of limitations was tolled. I filed the suit and ordered every piece of the medical record, including the nurse’s notes, which were several hundred pages given the length of admission. The “five largest personal injury firms in Virginia” had only ordered the admitting history and physical, and the discharge summary. Buried in the nurse’s notes was an entry from a traveling nurse who worked in the Winchester Hospital for six weeks. ?She wrote “Family at bedside, doctor at bedside, family tells doctor of tick bite, doctor hears family tell him about tick bite”. ?I located that nurse in Seattle and flew out there to take her deposition. ?The case settled just under the cap on the way home.

I learned from that case how much evidence is buried in the medical records. ?I learned to obtain the entire record and to study it and understand it. ?I learned not to be influenced unnecessarily if another firm turned down the case, as long as the client and her family are credible and tell a story of medical negligence. ?At the time the doctors were raising hell in the General Assembly for a damages cap, staging the original “White Coat Days”; I learned that no matter how much noise the doctors make, if I have the record that proves their medical negligence and it hurts a patient badly, I can win that case. These lessons have proven very beneficial many times in the 30+ years since then.

Satisfying aspect of practice:

Using my journalism skills to investigate and to learn what actually happened in a given tragedy/disaster and using that to help people who badly need help.

Working with clients:

I am as plain and as direct in my communication with my clients as possible. They deserve to know the truth about what happened to them or to their loved one, and this must be communicated in simple clear language.

Advice:

My first hearing out of law school was in the chambers of a United States Bankruptcy Judge. He told the opposing counsel “Don’t piss on my foot and tell me it’s raining!” It made quite an impression then as it does now. While this was not exactly “career advice” I took it to mean that I should always be straight with the Courts, opposing counsel, my clients, and defendants.

Outlook:

I think the Dead Man’s Statute may be clarified some, as well as the issue of causation in a medical battery case. I also think there will be some important rulings in the scope of practice of nurse practitioners. I think there are many nurse practitioners who are practicing medicine without a license and this will be curtailed.