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Saturday, July 30, 2011

The judge hates me. Medical malpractice con't.

It was a shame not all the encounters, between opposing counsel and I, would be as sweet. Now that we had met, for the most part, we became what we were: adversaries.

Everything that required my presence was in Pittsburgh. I had to take the train up, stay in a hotel, and take a cab wherever I needed to go. I always knew when I had not made any points; Ed offered to drive me back to the hotel. When I proved issues in my case, suddenly I was back in a cab. My barometer as to how I was doing was the way I got back to the hotel.

A lot of paperwork went back and forth, interrogatories, admissions, deposition corrections, requests for depositions, requests for records, etc.

Ed rarely answered them in the timeframe required. I usually let it go because, at the end of the day, he did respond.

One time it was to my absolute advantage that he did not reply.

Admissions are questions that are admitted or denied. These were directed to Dr. Jannetta. "Were you in the hospital at the time of my surgery?" "Did you do the operation?" "Did you look at the pre surgican defensive tests before surgery?" "Did you tell Ms. Levy facial paralysis was a risk of the operation?" and so on. The sanction for not replying within the required 30 days was an easy one. All answers were presumed in the favor of the plaintiff. That was it. He did not answer, in fact never answered, despite repeated requests, so they were all admissible in my favor.

The other time he did not respond, I believe it was to interrogatories, I had to go to court again.

This time I entered a formal courtroom, a judge's bench up front. There was about about 70 people in the room, men and women, most with briefcases and almost all dressed in suits. They sat or stood, talking with each other in groups of 2's and 3's. I found a seat and sat alone.

I kept looking around for Mr. Olsewski. I continued to call him by his formal name, not wanting to be lulled into a feeling of familiarity with this nice guy, my adversary. He never came.

A clerk called the room to order and then called the cases, one by one.

The rules were simple. Called case by case the attorneys for both sides stood before the judge. One side stated what they wanted: the other side why they did not want to give it. If opposing counsel was not there to contest the request, they forfeited, and the judge ruled in the favor of the presenting party. This was not a specious rule, it was codified in the Pennsylvania Rules.

My case was called. I stood before Judge McGowan. Ed was nowhere to be found nor was his Ms. Theis, his recently added co-counsel.

"Your Honor, I would like sanctions put in against Mr. Olszewski, et al, if interrogatories are not answered within 30 days as opposing counsel has not provided the replies within the time frame stated in the request."

Judge McGowan looked down at me, dislike and disapproval written all over face. "I don't see opposing counsel here. I want you to go sit over there.", he intoned, pointing to a chair at the side of the room, away from where all the others sat. "I am going to have my clerk call Mr. Olszewski. I want him here to tell me he does not oppose your motion." "But your honor." I did get to finish my sentence. "Miss Levy, go over there", he again pointed, "and stay put until I call your name."

I had no choice. It was certainly not going to help me to argue with a judge; and who knows what could happen if I did. I sat, a child sent by the teacher to the "time out" chair, separate but in view of all. I felt and was humiliated.

I waited about 20 minutes. The door opened and Ms. Theis arrived. "Ms Levy, come over here." the judge ordered.

Against all rule of law, he said "Ms. Theis, Ms. Levy is asking for sanctions against you if you do not get the requested documents to her in 30 days. Is that okay with you?"

"That is fine, your honor."

"In that case, I am granting the motion for sanctions."

This was my first lesson in what the Pittsburgh court called law. They did not like self-representation, they seemingly did not like me, and what would become exceedingly apparent, they had a deep like for Dr. Jannetta.

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