$1 Million Fine Sanctioned Over a Lawyer for Allowing Banned Testimony Referring a Medical Malpractice Case

Defense attorney Nancy Raynor representing Roxborough Memorial Hospital, has been sanctioned for close to $1 million for allowing a defense expert to make a prohibited reference to smoking in a lung cancer-related medical malpractice case that resulted in a mistrial. Judge Paul P. Panepinto of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, sanctioned the founder of Malvern, Pa.-based Raynor & Associates, detailing her penalty for failing to instruct medical expert John J. Kelly to not mention deceased plaintiff Rosalind Wilson’s smoking history. The testimony caused a mistrial, and the opposing lawyers later asked the judge to sanction Raynor to cover the time and expense of retrying the four-week case. Common Pleas Judge Paul P. Panepinto Jr. agreed and came up with imposing such a huge fine. The large penalty stems from a suit filed by Rosalind Sutch. She filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Roxborough Memorial Hospital, charging they did not advise her mother of a suspicious nodule on a chest X-ray. Rosalind Wilson’s lung cancer was not discovered until 20 months later; she died in 2009. At trial, witnesses were ordered not to mention Wilson’s history of smoking. Raynor’s defense medical expert, Dr. John J. Kelly, mentioned Wilson’s history of smoking. The case ended in a mistrial.

As a result of such an extraordinary sanction imposed by court has generated much of debate and turmoil among the legal professionals. To this- Ms. Raynor told The Legal Intelligencer the decision was outrageous and an appeal would only be the beginning. Raynor’s bank accounts have been frozen and there is a lien on her house as a consequence of the ruling. Raynor says she is facing the possibility of shuttering her firm if she cannot gain access to her money. The attorney further said that- “To think that someone as seasoned as I am going to disobey a court order that was so seminal to the case is just ludicrous and a lawyer is not always able to control her witness.”

However many lawyers have put their voices in support of Ms. Raynor and came forward with a view that reads as—“This is an extremely dangerous precedent to set, and I think it’s bad for the legal community as a whole because we can’t control our witnesses all the time.” – says defense attorney Gary Samms. Similar opinion popped up by Michael Hayes, a legal ethics attorney, who says that he could not recall another case where a lawyer was hit with sanctions as severe as those against Ms. Raynor, adding to it, he further says-  “This is absolutely on the higher realm of the sanctions spectrum.”

Moreover, not only the legal professionals but also there is massive support to Ms. Raynor from the Medical Society of Pennsylvania wherein Society president-elect Scott Shapiro, an Abington cardiologist, said he expects his organization to file legal papers in support of Berwyn lawyer Nancy Raynor to overturn the sanctions. Scott Shapiro stated that[1]

“Multiple physicians have reached out to me, and they have all indicated in a variety of ways that this will impact physicians’ ability to have the full benefit of a complete and thorough defense if they are named in a malpractice case,”

Overall the lawyers would be keeping a close look over the developments of this case and inquisitive to know the decision of the Superior Court over the matter; while the hearing is also scheduled for Feb. 19, 2015 on Ms. Raynor’s request to stay seizure over her property till the outcome of her appeal to the Superior Court.

[1] http://articles.philly.com/2015-01-30/business/58591600_1_lung-cancer-medical-malpractice-trial-sanctions

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