Businesses and professionals in the health care industry face some of the most intense legal and regulatory challenges known to the market today—and the future promises a world of even greater complexity and exposure to liability.
Goldberg Segalla serves the special legal needs of clients spanning the entire health care industry, including the facilities that provide care, the professionals who administer that care, the insurers that protect facilities and professionals, and the makers of the products and technologies used for treatment of patients and residents.
Our Health Care team brings together the diverse and extensive experience of our attorneys in various legal disciplines who focus on serving the health care industry and understand the intricate commercial, medical, and liability issues involved. In fact, a number of our seasoned litigators have medical backgrounds, including a former paramedic, and a member of our team recently was assistant general counsel at a major privately held long-term-care company for several years.
Our clients include:
- Hospitals, health care systems, academic medical centers, mental health care facilities, managed care organizations, telemedicine providers, and rehabilitation centers
- Long-term care organizations including: skilled nursing, assisted-living, and independent-living facilities; CCRC communities; rehabilitation facilities; long-term acute care hospitals (LTACs); and long-term care pharmacies
- Pediatric care centers
- Hospice and home health care providers
- Physicians, dentists, physical therapists, psychiatrists, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals and medical groups
- Ambulance companies, medical billing companies, pharmacies, and contractors working on hospital projects
- Insurers and plan administrators who provide life, health, and disability benefits
- Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers
Because our attorneys are deeply embedded in the health care industry—through previous in-house and professional experience, leadership in industry organizations, and long term relationships with clients—we are uncommonly conscious of developments in case law and the impact that each of our results could have not only on our clients, but on the entire health care community. That impact has been overwhelmingly positive. In several instances, the cases we have successfully resolved have made new law upon which future cases will be decided.
- We tried the case of Kambat v. St. Francis Hospital, the leading case citation in New York’s Pattern Jury Instructions on the subject of res ipsa loquitor, a legal concept applied when an unintended medical outcome can ostensibly have no explanation other than professional error. Although the first jury unanimously found in favor of our client, on appeal to New York’s highest court the case was remanded for a second trial to be conducted with the res ipsa loquitor jury instruction, which essentially tells a jury to find for the plaintiff if the medical outcome could only be explained by medical error. On retrial, a second jury also unanimously found for our client. The case was considered significant enough to receive front-page treatment in the New York Law Journal, New York’s leading law publication, and to be addressed in tort law textbooks used in law school curricula.
- In another case which received national media attention, we defended a hospital at which a nurse had euthanized extremely ill elderly patients and was convicted and imprisoned. The hospital’s liability for these actions turned upon its supervision and knowledge of the activities of the nurse, and we directed the in-house investigation which was essential to establishing defenses to the multiple wrongful death claims.
- We won dismissal of a $25 million medical malpractice suit alleging failure to diagnose against a health clinic associated with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a physician working there. Law360 covered this complicated, 17-day bench trial, which involved conflicting testimony and detailed analysis of symptoms and standards of care for a rare spinal nervous condition, cauda equina syndrome. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York’s ruling that the clinic and the supervising physician were not liable for damages the plaintiff sustained due to allegedly late diagnosis not only reaffirmed the standard of care our clients maintain, but also created case law favorable to health care providers.
- We established new law while defending a nonprofit health and human services agency for individuals with special needs, accused of causing serious injury and death of the plaintiff. The plaintiffs attempted to establish that the group home was a “residential healthcare facility” and therefore subject to the Public Health Law, which would make it easier for the plaintiffs to access punitive damages. The New York State Appellate Division Fourth Department agreed that the group home was not a “residential healthcare facility” and dismissed all claims under the Public Health Law—a landmark victory for the thousands of agencies that operate under the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities regulations, as we explained in a Buffalo Law Journal article.
We also volunteer to teach medical students at medicolegal seminars to advance their knowledge of their legal obligations, for the benefit of both their patients and their practices. In short, we are active in every important aspect of the advancement of current medicolegal thinking, and our attorneys bring that to bear for the benefit of every client we have the privilege to represent.
Our Expert Witness Edge
Decades of experience have helped us develop an extremely valuable database of expert witnesses to call upon, as well as a parallel database of the experts commonly retained by plaintiffs’ attorneys. These databases are essential in preparing defense strategies and developing effective cross-examination of opposing expert witnesses based upon close analysis of testimony they have given in other cases.
Our clients trust us to choose, prepare, and utilize the best expert witnesses for each matter, and then to translate the sophisticated concepts in their testimony into compelling narratives for the judge and jury. Recent cases reflect the complexity of the legal and medical issues involved in the claims our clients face—as well as the role that our effective preparation and cross-examination of expert witnesses has played.
For example, we retained a leading neurologist who had previously served as the State of Florida’s independent medical expert in the widely publicized Terri Schiavo ‘right to die’ life support case. The central issue in our case, in which we represented a major medical center, turned upon this expert’s testimony and represented a potential multimillion-dollar swing in the jury verdict, depending upon whether the patient could receive an award for conscious pain and suffering. The use of this expert was critical in demonstrating the absence of cognition.
Our attorneys are active members and leaders in legal and industry organizations including:
- Chair of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC) Health Care Section
- Chair of the Defense Research Institute (DRI) 2019 Nursing Home and Assisted Living Seminar
- American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA)—Chapter Editor of Post Acute Care Handbook
- Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS)
- Faculty of the Long Term Care Power Lawyers Program
Whatever the claim, our team brings strength, experience, and in-depth knowledge to the defense of clients in the health care industry. Our experience includes general liability defense, such as claims involving personal injuries, negligence, premises liability, civil rights violations, mass and non-mass torts, and more. As a firm founded by litigators, we have earned respect among the bench and bar for our successful track record of seeing complex cases through to victory for our clients.
We advise health care clients on compliance with the myriad regulatory and licensing issues they face; represent them before agencies such as state regulatory authorities, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission; and counsel them through correction of violations. Our team provides proactive counsel aimed at helping clients manage risk and minimize the potential for a lawsuit.
When claims alleging malpractice or negligence arise against health care professionals, our team of trial-tested litigators brings to the courtroom a long and successful history of defending physicians, hospitals, nurses, physician’s assistants, and other health care professionals. We are well-versed in defending nursing homes and assisted living facilities in negligence and other claims. Our experience also includes licensing revocation hearings and allegations of fraud or the unlawful corporate practice of medicine. In addition, we have particularly deep experience in the defense of claims against long-term care companies and providers.
Members of our Health Care practice counsel on the complex business and commercial aspects of the health care industry and protect their interests in a wide range of disputes. Our experience includes corporate and transactional work as well as representing health care clients in claims involving breach of contract, billing disputes, allegations of fraud, disputes with suppliers, and a wide range of commercial actions.
Health care businesses are major employers that rely upon a broad range of professionals and paraprofessionals to succeed. We provide comprehensive employment and labor services to the health care industry, including day-to-day human resources counseling and representation in matters involving discrimination, retaliation, harassment, whistleblowing, family leave, Title III Americans With Disabilities Act actions, labor law and union avoidance, workers’ compensation, wage/hour audits, professional misconduct reviews, employment agreements, and restrictive covenants. Our team provides staunch advocacy in litigation, arbitration, and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and other administrative proceedings.
We aggressively defend insurers and plan administrators in life, health, and disability benefits litigation across the United States. Our attorneys are nationally recognized leaders and authorities in life, health, disability, and ERISA coverage, and we routinely counsel insurers on policy wording, subrogation, regulatory compliance, and more.
Our team defends health care industry clients and helps them reduce exposure to liability associated with the use and storage of electronic information. We counsel on electronic medical chart audits and liability, matters concerning the privacy of protected health information (HIPAA/HITECH), and the ever-growing liability associated with cyber risk, including privacy concerns, social media issues, and data breaches — an especially important concern as the industry rapidly embraces electronic medical records and bioinformatics.
By their nature, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities face a host of environmental risks and liability implications. Our environmental team can help health care businesses maintain compliance with ever-evolving federal and state environmental regulations as well as provide a strong defense when environmental claims arise or the government takes action. In addition, our Environmental Compliance Audit Program is particularly well suited for health care facilities, which are currently at heightened risk for Environmental Protection Agency inspection in some areas, to take a proactive approach and avoid costly penalties from the government.
We help employers from a wide range of industries establish and maintain safe work environments that meet applicable requirements and reduce exposure to liability. The Goldberg Segalla team includes more than a dozen lawyers who have undergone OSHA 10-hour or 30-hour training and certification programs. If OSHA or a state health and safety agency does come knocking, we bring extensive experience in preparing for any such unexpected visits, negotiating any resulting citations, and handling administrative proceedings, litigation, and alternative dispute resolution to help minimize the impact on the company’s bottom line.
Goldberg Segalla’s workers’ compensation practice in the health care sector is a one-stop shop for national and regional health care providers. It is distinguished by our deep engagement with health care companies and the professionals who manage, direct, and insure them. From labor unions to leave of absence to return-to-work issues, we understand the unique needs of health care providers. We work as a team with employers and claims professionals to meet these needs. Our workers’ compensation teams also collaborate with attorneys in our employment and labor practice to address any employment issues that may be impacted by workers’ compensation decisions.
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