Wednesday March 8, 6:30 pm Eastern Time
Company Press ReleaseSOURCE: Johnson Flora
Betrayed by Doctors and Lawyers in Alaska,
Sweets Find Justice Through Seattle Malpractice Attorney
SEATTLE, March 8 PRNewswire -- Johnson Flora today issued the following statement:
When Jacob Sweet was born at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska in January 1986, it was a dream come true for his parents, Beverly and Gary. But their dream took a nightmarish turn only nine days later when they took their son back to the hospital for treatment of an infected circumcision and the hospital returned a severely brain-damaged and blind child. The nightmare continued for 13 years and included ``lost'' medical records and an Alaska lawyer who claimed to be an experienced medical malpractice attorney, but who had never tried a malpractice case. This is the story behind a major legal malpractice settlement announced today between a Bothell, Wash., family and the Alaska law firm that handled the Sweet's medical malpractice lawsuit against Providence Hospital of Anchorage and the pediatrician who treated Jacob for the infection.
The settlement ends a 13-year battle for the Sweets who were forced to fight for their son in the court system on two occasions. First, they sought justice from the hospital and doctor who allegedly caused Jacob's injuries, and who then ``lost'' the medical records critical to proving Jacob's case. Then, after Alaska lawyer Alan Sherry mishandled the Sweets' medical malpractice case, they were forced to once again resort to the courts to get justice for Jacob.
Seattle attorney Mark Johnson represented the Sweets in the legal malpractice suit, arguing the Sweet's first attorney misrepresented himself as a seasoned malpractice lawyer and then failed to properly try the Sweets' medical negligence case. The Sweets had hired Sherry to sue Providence Hospital of Anchorage for negligent care of Jacob during his hospital stay.
The amount awarded to the Sweets is confidential as part of the settlement agreement.
``This has been tragedy at every turn for this family,'' Johnson said. ``First the healthcare system devastated their child. Then, when the Sweets most needed an aggressive, experienced and competent lawyer, an attorney with no malpractice experience misled them and failed to properly try the case. That cost them their opportunity to recover damages from the hospital and the pediatrician,'' he added.
The Underlying Medical Malpractice Case
The Sweet's tragedy started on January 25, 1986, in Anchorage, Alaska, when they brought their nine-day-old son Jacob back to Providence Hospital after he exhibited signs of an infected circumcision. Jacob was admitted to the pediatric ward and displayed seizure activity for 24 hours, but their pediatrician, Dr. Daniel Tulip, was absent most of the time and failed to refer Jacob to a neonatologist until after Jacob had suffered the brain damage that would leave him physically devastated, developmentally delayed, and utterly dependent for the rest of his life.
Injustice Served Twice
The Sweet's calamity compounded when the Alaska law firm they hired to try their medical malpractice suit improperly handled the case. According to Johnson, the lawsuit hinged on the fact that Jacob's medical records disappeared shortly after this tragic episode in the hospital, suggesting that someone was trying to cover up a negligent act. Sweet's first legal team failed to present this evidence properly, although they had key witnesses prepared to present the opinion that the records must have been intentionally destroyed, claims Johnson. The Sweets lost the suit, and with it all hope of recovering damages from the hospital that would cover the costs of lifelong care for Jacob's severe injuries.
Racked with guilt and with mounting medical bills, the Sweets hired Mark Johnson to represent them in an action for legal negligence, because of his dual experience in medical and legal malpractice cases.
``To me the Sweets are heroic figures,'' Johnson said. ``In order to right a terrible wrong -- the catastrophic injury to their son -- they confronted two of society's most powerful institutions: the medical system and the legal system. They fought for 13 years until they prevailed.''
Legal malpractice cases are difficult to prove, because the plaintiff must not only prove the defendant attorney was negligent, but that the client would have won the case if the attorney had acted differently, according to the International Association of Defense Counsel.
``This brings some peace-of-mind to our lives, although we are still convinced that Jacob's doctor and the hospital have never told the truth,'' said Beverly Sweet. ``At least now we can provide for Jacob's medical care and future.''
Mark Johnson is the co-owner of Johnson Flora, a legal and medical malpractice firm in Seattle. Johnson has significant experience in representing children and families who have been harmed as a result of preventable birth and neonatal injuries and is listed in the book ``The Best Lawyers In America'' for his work in legal malpractice law.
CONTACT: Rhenda Meiser of Firmani & Associates, 206-443-9357 or 206-443-7546, for Johnson Flora.
[CIRP note: For photographs of Jacob Sweet, go to pictures. (off site link)]
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