No, this is not a “man bites dog” post, but it is a bit different as I have frequently picked on the VA for not settling cases administratively and forcing veterans to file suit in cases where the damages are limited and/or capped. That has been a persistent problem. Last week brought us some good news, however. Hopefully, it is a pattern, but that remains to be seen.
We had two cases where there was a surgical “misadventure” (as British doctors might put it). One involved the misplacement of a feeding tube which punctured the bowel and in the other a post-surgical drain ended up in the bladder. In both instances, there was a delay in diagnosing the problem and the veteran had a tough time. Fortunately, neither had major permanent issues relating to these episodes. Both were cases where there was no real issue that an error had been made. In both, the damages were relatively modest. In other words, they were exactly the sort of cases that the VA (or any government agency) should attempt to settle administratively.
In both cases, the VA did exactly what they should do: They settled the cases. The feeding tube case was resolved for $225,000 and the surgical drain case got $170,000. Our costs in both matters were low and with the fee at only 20%, both clients got a decent net recovery. If we had had to file suit, the net for each easily could have been $20,000 to $30,000 less – and that assumes that we could get the cases settled early on in the litigation process.
Unfortunately, not all cases get resolved as expeditiously as they should be. Right now we are getting ready to file suit in several matters that are similar to the above situations - clear liability and limited damages. In those cases, the VA still does not seem to be moving much. Regardless, the recent resolutions as well as the discussions we are having in a number of other matters give me some hope that the VA may be trying to make an effort to resolve those cases which should be resolved early in the process.
Litigating a small case halfway across the country is not an ideal business model for a law firm. If we had had to file suit in either of the above cases – and we had actually had to try the cases – even with a very good outcome our “hourly rates” might only barely pass muster with Bernie Sanders. We are willing to take this risk for two reasons:
It is the right thing to do. We take our representation of veterans and military families very seriously.
We want the government agencies to know that we are not going to just abandon a case – and our client - because for whatever reason they issued a wrongful denial of liability or simply dragged out the process for far too long.
We are committed to our nationwide practice of representing veterans and military families who have been injured by medical malpractice at government facilities. We are indeed very serious about what we do.