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Flea revealed in Boston newspaper

This morning, I got quite a comment on the PGR 2.3. Flea has been unmasked in a newspaper. I was floored. Then I got angry. Not at Flea, but at the plaintiff’s lawyer. What a spin chick. This is why so many of us hate litigation lawyers. They get gain by harming people. Of course, this makes them the natural predator and foe of doctors.

From the article, : “[Mulvey] was appalled that readers in the blogosphere who knew little or nothing about the case rallied to his defense.” 

Actually, Alison, whose comment gave me the news, sounds pretty much like the lawyer in the newspaper article and what I expect comments of people who never read Flea’s blog to be, so I’ll address her directly since she chose to share her opinion so well and succinctly.   

“I’m appalled by the comments I’ve read supporting Flea in his litigation – by people who donn’t know what the litigation was about, and didn’t bother to check.” 

 It is you and it will sadly be the general public, who do not understand the nature of Flea’s blogging. He was anonymous. We could not check. But Flea’s articles, sharp as they’d sometimes been, had always consisted of sound science. Moreso, the frustration he often expressed was a mark of his compassion for the children under his care. In the blogging world, he was a model of integrity and compassion.  

If you accuse of bloggers who defended him of ‘not having the whole picture’, you must accuse yourself of the same thing.

To the lawyer, Mulvey, who claims to have read his entire blog: where is your integrity? Is it truth or power that you love? Is it compassion or money?

Let me ask you: Does the family have their little boy back? Are they healed now? Do they feel better about the loss?

This isn’t win/win. Only a litigation lawyer who knew it was a weak case would say that. It’s lose/lose.

Flea was being sued for medical malpractice for failing to diagnose diabetes in one of his 12 year-old patients, who died within six weeks.

I cannot comment specifically on the misdiagnosis, because I am not a medical professional. I am sure someone qualified will step up to the plate. However, I do know know some generalizations: Diagnoses are not always obvious, even for diseases as common as diabetes. I watched a “Mystery Diagnosis” show on DHC once about diagnosing a kid with diabetes. That kid went for YEARS without the diagnosis. The difference between him and the unfortunate death of the 12 year old under Flea’s care was, I am thinking, luck. My own dad went for years without being diagnosed. Okay, so I did get specific. But I might be wrong and I’ll wait for better experts. The point is, the outcome could not have been predicted and it appears from the news article that Flea saw him only once regarding the symptoms that allegedly diabetes could have been diagnosed from, and six weeks later the boy died. For that, he was being sued?

Hindsight is 20/20. Flea did his best with this child, under the apparently very limited circumstances he had. One cannot fault the doctor for a stroke of bad luck.

That boy lost his life, and a family lost their son. During the trial, Flea blogged about the trial, ridiculing the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s lawyers and the jurors.

We are aware of that. We read the posts. We did not know specifics, (that would have been unethical) but we read not only his angst with the trial, but the fact that he felt awful about the death of this child. Did you read that, Alison and lawyer? And now that it is down, no one in the general public will read it, but we know. 

In my opinion that’s a tragedy that makes Flea at best a jerk, and at worst a dangerous doctor.

What do you think goes on in the head of doctor’s being sued when they know they did everything they could have? When they, themselves can see the diagnosis 20/20 and are devastated? Do you think they are as calm as the demeanor imposed on them by their role?  Do you think they appreciate the smack down they are getting? Do you think they don’t get frustrated when people misconstrue everything in order to get money? Do you think the face they must show the jury and public reflects what is really going on inside of them? Do you think they like the lawyer who is there to take them down or the jury who isn’t paying attention?

Do you think they aren’t human?

Flea was not arrogant. People too often mistake anger and frustration for arrogance. From the facts that I can gather, Flea is not dangerous, either. That is an emotional overreaction that will only harm him and the community he serves. 

No, Flea’s only mistake was in blogging about it publicly and in real time. I think his intentions were good: this is what a doctor really feels and goes through when he is being sued, but the execution of it was poorly thought out.

Good luck to him.

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14 comments

  1. I am an attorney, but lest I be lumped in with the plaintiff’s attorneys I’ll point out that I’m a intellectual property specialist and I strive to stay as far away from a courtroom as possible.

    It’s my belief that one of the problems with the system is that there are too many attorneys who have nothing to do but try meritless cases, hoping for this type of settlement. There are a total of 180+ law schools in the country, each who graduate 200+ new attorneys each year (that’s 36,000 new attorneys a year for those counting). Any idiot (and I do mean “any”) could get into some law school. While the top schools require high GPAs and that you be in the top 1-2% on the law school aptitude test (which tests logic, reasoning and reading skills), you could get into the bottom law schools with barely passing college grades and reasoning skills that would be surpassed by a hamster. Why do these law schools accept such idiots? Money. Even the lowest ranked law schools tend can get away with charging massive tuition because most people going to law school have unrealistic expectations of the types of jobs they can get when they graduate.

    Only a small fraction of new attorneys get high paying jobs(top starting salaries at law firms for newly minted attorneys in major cities now start at $165,000 per year and tend to go up by $10,000 to $15,000 per year of experience. By 7-8 years out these attorneys are making close to $300K per year). The bulk of new attorneys make far less money (average is something like $50K), but most of the 180+ law schools have extremely high tuition and fees and these new attorneys are saddled with $150,000 or more in student loan debt. When unleashed on society, they start hunting for ways to make money and the sadder the plaintiff, the more they think they can cash in.

    I went into the legal profession with eyes open. I got into a top 5 school and looked at all of the employment stats for all graduates from that school. In making the decision whether to go or not I assumed that I would be at the bottom of the class and would make a fraction of what could be expected at the top of the class. Happily, I was wrong and landed at a top firm and have since made my way to being an attorney at a fortune 500 company, but even if I had totally flopped in law school, I could have made due with much lower salary without having to resort to working as a plaintiff’s attorney.

    Lest I paint all plaintiff’s attorneys as morons with ill intent, I do think that there are genuine cases where a defendant has done something wrong and having a good plaintiff’s attorney on your side is vital. However, there are just to many cases where what happened is unfortunate and unlucky, but not malfeasance or tortious conduct.

    With regards to Flea. Well, Flea was stupid. While I can’t judge the merits of his case, I can say that blogging real-time about your case strategy and how you intend to position yourself with the jury sets you up for a jury to rule against you when they have to make a judgement call. Flea should have waited to comment until after the trial, or been more careful about what he said in his blog about the trial. The sad thing is that Flea’s malpractice insurance may use this to wiggle out of responsibility for the settlement and associated costs of the defense, which would leave him personally responsible for a settlement of a case that may not have had any merit.

  2. You can never be truly sure that you are anonymous online. That is why blogging about a trial is just plain stupid. You also have to expect that the lawyers for the other guy will try and make you look like an idiot if they can. I blog knowing that nothing I say can ever be 100% anonymous which is why I don’t write about my husband’s job. I really think that Flea should have taken that into more consideration before putting those posts out. It saddens me that this lapse in judgment has also tainted the many great and insightful posts that he wrote.

  3. “I am an attorney, but lest I be lumped in with the plaintiff’s attorneys I’ll point out that I’m a intellectual property specialist and I strive to stay as far away from a courtroom as possible.

    It’s my belief that one of the problems with the system is that there are too many attorneys who have nothing to do but try meritless cases, hoping for this type of settlement.”

    If you’re never in court, how do you feel qualified to comment on the cases that are brought there?

  4. Ami … what a wonderful post! Thank you! I hope that our friend, Dr. Flea, ventures out this way and sees it.

    I want to say that I do know Flea. We met last summer, and have stayed in touch since then. Flea is anything but arrogant. He’s an intense, passionate, devoted physician, who believes in what he’s doing.

    For those who think that we supported Flea blindly, you’re quite mistaken – at least for this blogger. I know that Flea is a man of integrity, and I saw some of his agony over all of this.

    From what I’ve seen of those who’ve accused Flea of arrogance, I’d like to suggest that they could well be seeing reflections of themselves …

  5. Doctors do not like lawyers. Even, it seems, some lawyers do not like lawyers. But as neither a doctor or a lawyer, I have been following the saga of Flea with appalled fascination. The fact is, no-one – not even Flea, nor the lawyers, know the real truth of this case. A child was sick, the diagnosis was missed, and a human being on the threshold of adulthood died. Maybe that was a simple human tragedy, with no-one to blame. But are the parents expected to shrug their shoulders, and hold no-one responsible? Do you really believe this was about money, and nothing else? If Flea was anguished, it didn’t come across in his blog, which seemed to me juvenile and very unwise.

  6. Hey Hyloka,

    Very interesting. A solution could be a limit on how many lawyers are allowed to enter the field. Is that what bar exams are supposed to do? Should they be more rigorous?

    Anon,

    We don’t have to try every case to know that some of them are frivolous. We already know that judges throw some out on that basis alone. What of the ‘fringe’ cases, that the judge almost threw out but decided was okay?

    I am sure that in order to avoid cognitive dissonance, to avoid pangs of conscience, to be confident in front of judge and jury, lawyers trying frivolous and weak cases convince themselves as well.

    Moof,

    Thank you.

    Liz,

    I know that the bulk of his writing about the trial regarded the trial itself, but there were several instances in which he noted his feelings regarding the death of the child.

    Everyone who has said Flea was stupid, juvenile, etc

    The only difference between Flea and all of us is that Flea managed to be stupid and juvenile publicly. Maybe we should be a little more compassionate and stop pointing out the obvious. It doesn’t help or change anything.

  7. Dignified post, Ami.

    Regards – Shinga

  8. “We don’t have to try every case to know that some of them are frivolous. We already know that judges throw some out on that basis alone. What of the ‘fringe’ cases, that the judge almost threw out but decided was okay? ”

    You apparently haven’t tried any and appear to know nothing about trial practice. Are there frivolous claims? Of course. Are there bad doctors? Of course. However, neither justifies a wholesale indictment of either system.

    As for Moof, whether or not he’s a good guy is not the issue. Good people are negligent all the time. I’m sure you’ve inadvertently run a stop sign a time or two, you were just lucky no one was in the road at the time. However, without reviewing the evidence, you can not make a judgment on the legitimacy of this case.

  9. I am well aware that my view of what happened is not going to popular here. But what has happened is so interesting, and touches on such an unusual view of a very difficult topic – medical negligence, and how it should be dealt with – that I cannot resist. For a start, I too have a lot of sympathy for Dr. Lindeman and the position he finds himself in. I am more than ready to believe that he is an excellent, caring doctor. If he was forced – by a failure of nerve, his insurance company – to settle when he believed, and believed he could prove, that he had done nothing wrong is an appalling travesty of justice. I have a lot less sympathy for “Flea”. To have a doctor blogging honestly and as openly as possible about his feelings on this kind of case would have actually managed to add something useful to the great divide between defendant and plaintive. Both are unenviable roles that most of us would hope never to find ourselves in. But it is seldom Angels on one side and Devils on the other. When it comes to stating the obvious “Money won’t bring your son back” is about as obvious as it gets, and, of course, true. But maybe money can help with some of the practical devastation – a career you no longer have the will to pursue, a home you can’t bear to live in. And what is the alternative? To murmur “I’m sure you did your best doctor,” and vanish into the woodwork? What if you are not at all sure, and your only recourse is to let a jury weight it up? The problem with Flea’s blog was that he left a bit of a hole in the popular notion of greedy litigants and saintly doctors. To use his blog to “vent” in this way was a serious error of judgement, wide-open to misinterpretation. If you were feeling generous, you could “interpret” his comment about preferring ill-educated young women (his definition of “mothers”) to well-educated men charitably – he liked them, knew how to talk to them, trusted their judgement, or uncharitably – easier to fool with his superiority. It seems to me unlikely that his blog was the only reason this case settled.

    I wish him well, and hope his future is less dire than it seems at the moment. Making the front page of a newspaper was a very high price to pay for his jokey alter ego, but hubris is a bitch.

  10. Ami,

    I suppose you could make the bar exam more difficult and at the same time limit the number of tries to pass the bar exam, although some states still have a glut of attorneys even with low pass rates (the California pass rate when I took the bar was below 50%). There is a valid need for attorneys who represent plaintiffs or classes of plaintiffs who do not themselves have the power to bring change to defendents/companies who really are in the wrong. If all attorneys worked for the big companies or big firms that represented the big companies, then there’d be no one out there to help the little guy.

    Regardless of what a better ratio of attorneys to non-attorneys might be, there are to few attorneys who look their client in the eyes and say “you can’t be serious, despite what you may be able to extract from the other side, you should do what is morally right here.”

    Anon,
    Just because I steer clear of the courtroom doesn’t mean that I don’t have the knowledge necessary to judge the merits of legal arguments. I spend most of my time drafting agreements to avoid arguments or advising clients of the strenghts and weaknesses of their positions and likelihood of success in court. However, I firmly believe that law is not rocket science, or physics or microbiology, etc. If only practicing trial attorneys were “qualified” to judge the merits of a case (or the wisdom of blogging about trial strategy during a trial), the jury pool would shrink significantly.

  11. I find it ironic that you can lash out at Flea’s detractors for not empathizing with his plight, but you have no problems categorizing all plaintiff’s lawyers as money grubbing fools with no morals.

    To quote your own words:

    “Do you think they aren’t human?”

    I also find it ironic that so many people earnestly believe that most, if not all, plaintiff’s cases are without merit or plaintiff’s lawyers prosecute cases with bad facts to make money. This theory ignores the economic reality of being a practicing plaintiff’s lawyer. A contingency fee means you do not get paid unless you recover money for your client, so you simply cannot afford to spend hundreds of hours on a case with no merit.

    But don’t let all of these pesky facts get in your way, after all it’s so much easier to blame everything on those pesky plaintiff’s lawyers!

  12. Hi the Other Side,

    I don’t know if you’ll come back and see this answer.

    There are too many plaintiff lawyers and by experience I have found that they will try to prosecute a weak case. When I was in my early twenties, a lady turned left onto a road in front of me. She claimed my lights weren’t on, and I knew they were on. The insurance company stopped helping us after they called 60% her fault, and we couldn’t afford to replace our old but very reliable car.

    So I tried to call a lawyer. I was young, clueless, and there are advertisements everywhere. Was I hurt? Well, a bloodless scrape on my ankle and a very minor bruise.

    But this guy was going to go after her for injuries! That was how he would make his money. When I pulled out after a couple of days, because he was acting without integrity, he was extremely rude.

    I’ve seen other cases. Everyone has heard about frivolous and just plain greedy cases. There are enough litigation lawyers that will do anything for a buck that the whole process reeks to an honest person.

    Are there cases where people need to be sued? Yes.

    But that doesn’t make ambulance chasing a reputable practice. That doesn’t make the original suit that came against Flea right. If anything, that mess proves how broken the litigation process is.

  13. Ah personal experience and irrational belief, it is very hard to compete with that. Clearly it is easier for you to believe that every lawyer is just like the one you remember from when you were “young and clueless.”

    So sure you go ahead and cling to your belief that all plaintiff’s lawyers are evil ambulance chasers, and that you are the only person worthy of deciding who should and should not be sued. Clearly this is a personal issue for you, and no one will ever change your mind. You should probably remove that part of your blog description that claims to be interested in rational thoughts, though, as you clearly enjoy fervent beliefs more than making rational distinctions amidst an entire profession of people.

    God help you when you really are injured. Be sure and show your blog to the attorney you try to get to spend their own money prosecuting your case.

  14. Well, I did state that we need to sue people sometimes. So I guess I have at least a thread of rationality left me.

    In fact, we just finished watching Michael Clayton (with George Clooney) yesterday. Very good movie, and certainly that corporation needed to be sued. When such an act can prevent further harm, then it is a worthy cause.

    As far as “God help me if I really are injured,” What if that injury involved no one to sue? What would I do then?

    Then why worry if there is someone to sue? Really? Why waste the time and energy hurting someone else? That wouldn’t heal me, emotionally or physically. My only caveat would be medical costs. But then, I couldn’t sue anyone if I had cancer either.

    Life happens, and sometimes people are involved.

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