Meeting the test of character in the courtroom

March 1, 2004

With verdicts in medical liability lawsuits reaching the tens of millions of dollars, health-care providers should be aware of how the cards are stacked should they ever be brought to trial. The good news is that defendants win in more than 62% of all medical malpractice cases, Harvard Law School's Linda Crawford, JD, told Medical Liability Monitor (12/03). That's a better rate than any other type of tort, she added.

With that in mind, Crawford notes that, these days, jurors base their decisions on issues of character before conduct. She said that jurors first try to determine who they can trust—and the physician defendant who testifies on his own behalf tops the list of the trustworthy, above the plaintiff, the attorneys, and the expert witnesses.

Crawford added that jurors also consider the physician defendant's competency, placing more weight on experience and good judgment than academic credentials. They then determine whether the physician did the best he could under the circumstances and if he made the right medical decision.

Meeting the test of character in the jurors' eyes can benefit a defendant's case. "Juries want providers who exhibit character, whether it is in the examining room, operating room, deposition, or courtroom," Crawford said.