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Can minor medical malpractices be effectively resolved in the small claim court ?

Seattle, WA |

I believe my former gastroenterologist and/or radiologist misinterpreted the ultrasound reading, & thus recommended to remove my gallbladder. The surgery did not occur because I sought a second opinion. And now I seek the refund of the coinsurance I paid while in the treatment of this gastroenterologist (it amounts to less than $700).

My former gastroenterologist claims that the stone just passed out (even though I never experienced any symptoms associated with the gallbladder disorder) & the two ultrasound tests were done only days apart.

I want to resolve this issue in the small claims court by presenting them the main evidence: first ultra sound report (stating that I have stones) & second (stating that I don't).
What are my chances? Do I risk to pay def. attorney fees if I lose ?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Don't bother. Your chances are slim to none. Proving a medical malpractice case requires medical expert testimony. I don't practice in your state, but the only state that has "loser pays" in malpractice cases of which I am aware is TX.

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  2. You have little chance of success without an attorney, and expert medical testimony that your former gastroenterologist was negligent, and his negligence caused you damages. Just because his opinion was mistaken, doesn't mean it was negligent, and that you would not be legally obligated to pay it. Also, pain and suffering is not recoverable in small claims court. Most likely, an attorney would appear for the doctor asking that the case be removed to district court, where the attorney could put on a defense, and you would be unprepared to proceed without spending a lot of money and time.

  3. Medical malpractice cases in the great State of Washington are governed by statutes. RCW 7.70. ( The main question is usually whether the health care provider failed to follow the accepted standard of care in the field. RCW 7.70.030. There can also be causes of action for health care providers making promises they didn't fulfil, or acting without the informed consent of the patient.
    These cases are extremely difficult and require the testimony of an expert witness. Miller V. Jacoby, 102 Wn. App. 256 (2000). (You can read relevant cases at the MRSC website.) Doctors are trained to work cooperatively (unlike lawyers who are trained to be adversarial), so doctors are often reluctant to testify against each other. Doctors who are willing to testify as expert witness usually charge significant quantities of money to do so, and often must be flown in from out of State.
    Some law firms who are really good at medical malpractice cases in Washington State include the following: Chris Otorowski (; Chemnick, Moen, Greenstreet (; and Fuller & Fuller (
    Only a small percentage of victims of medical malpractice make a claim, and of those that do, only about 20% ever get any money to compensate them. Nonetheless, sometimes justice requires assigning responsibility where it is due.

    [In accordance with the Avvo community guidelines, this communication does not constitute "legal advice", nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.]

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