Medical malpractice suits are often highly emotional, personal cases. In such matters, it’s vital that both sides are able to present their arguments as articulately as possible. That’s what Elizabeth Shea does for her clients in her work as a medical malpractice attorney with Fraser, Wheeler, Bergstedt, and Courtney in Lake Charles.
For her most memorable case, Shea cited her first jury trial where she served as lead counsel. Her client was an ER doctor who was being sued by the son of an elderly woman who died a week after a visit to the ER. The woman was a nursing home patient whose feeding tube had come out. She went to the ER to have it reinstalled. After she died a week later, the son accused the doctor of putting the tube in incorrectly and causing her death.
The trial was in Jena, Louisiana. Shea had never been there. Proceedings were set for February, but an ice storm postponed the case. The delay meant the trial would take place during Mardi Gras. When Shea brought it up to the judge, he said, “Nobody celebrates Mardi Gras here.”
“I was a little out of my comfort zone,” Shea said.
Thankfully, the trial went better for Shea and her client than her efforts to move the case out of a Mardi Gras time slot. What she appreciated about the trial itself is what she appreciates about her medical malpractice work in general. These suits are highly personal to the doctors, whose professional judgment is being called into question.
“They tried to help their patients, and it ended with a bad result, but it’s nobody’s fault,” Shea said. “I really like that I get to learn about the medicine and be an advocate for these doctors. Having a voice speak for you is just as important on the defense side as it is on the plaintiff’s side.”
While she passionately believes in helping her clients, Shea has sympathy for the plaintiffs. They are usually suffering a terrible loss and are looking for an answer, but not all unexpected deaths are the fault of another human being.
Shea, who earned her law degree from LSU in 2011, said she enjoys the variety in her work. Even though the subject matter may be similar, no two cases are identical and that keeps the work from becoming monotonous.