Friday, November 21, 2008

Expert Witness

After my recent jury duty, I thought it would be years before I saw the inside of a courtroom again.

I was wrong.

Let me back up a bit. I have described my office in a little detail in the past. Here are some more. Our office handles all the printing for the entire university campus, including all the forms for the hospitals in our area. Pre-Katrina, I was the sole designer and typesetter of those forms, as well as managing the department that produced and distributed them.

Around campus, I was referred to as simply the Forms Guy. Our customers that have known me since then still refer to me as that, even though post-Katrina I have many additional duties.

As the Forms Guy, I receive regular emails from the hospital’s legal department, asking for copies of current and past versions of certain forms. (I keep on file every present and past version of all 1400+ active forms. I am the only one on campus that has this information.)

Last week, I received a request for a form, and sent it on. The next day, I received this email: “You may be called to court as an expert witness on our forms. Would you be available to discuss that?”

This past Monday, a lawyer for the hospital called me to ask me many detailed questions about a certain form. “How can you tell it’s an original and not a copy? Can you show that the form when sold has writing only on the front? Do you have examples of other forms that when sold are duplex?” And many, many other very specific questions about forms.

This past Tuesday, I was asked to testify in court at a civil trial (including a 12-person jury), and, after some questions about my job, its duties, and some other background information, I was sworn in as an expert witness.

I was on the stand for almost 30 minutes.

From what I can gather, a former patient was suing a doctor. The doctor had written some instructions about the patient on the back of a form that officially did not have a back. (That is, the form didn’t have lines on the back, nor “-front” at the bottom to signify that there was a “-back”.) The next shift at the hospital did not see the writing on the back and didn’t copy it. That missing information caused something to go wrong with the patient’s surgery.

I’m sure there are many more details, and I could have those details incorrect, but I only know about the case what I was told. I did not attend the beginning or the end of the trial. Only my part.

The hospital’s lawyer called me later Tuesday afternoon, leaving me this voicemail: “Thank you for your help today. I’m sorry the prosecuting lawyer was so harsh with you, but you handled him well. I will call you when the jury reaches a verdict. It’s nice to know you’re around. We may need you for future trials.”

She called me Wednesday. The doctor was found not guilty.

1 comment:

jason said...

Wow...lightening strikes twice!
You can put that on your resume now, expert witness.

But at least it was only 30 minutes and not a week.
It's interesting how they keep you as a witness in the dark. I hadn't really realized that.

Still, thinking about it, I'm surprised you haven't been called more often.