Film features med-mal case

July 26, 2010
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IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger wrote this blog post.

The Indianapolis International Film Festival wrapped up its seventh series of independent local, national, and international films Sunday with screenings of award winners and audience favorites.

It was no surprise “A Little Help” won the Grand Jury Prize and Best American Spectrum Feature because of the high production quality, characters, story line, and acting, including Fort Wayne native Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam Beesly on “The Office.”

But it was also intriguing how the film portrayed Fischer’s character, Laura, and her interactions with her lawyer on a pending medical malpractice lawsuit. Her husband died of a heart arrhythmia the doctor misdiagnosed as anxiety after the husband lied to his doctor about cheating on Laura while she was in the examination room.

Early on in the film, it’s obvious that Laura isn’t in the best place in life. Her family gives her a hard time for drinking a few beers after work and smoking cigarettes. At one point her mom blames Laura for letting herself go, which is possibly the reason for her husband’s late hours in the office that Laura suspects aren’t entirely work-related. As a side note, Fischer wasn’t modified in anyway to look like she was down on her luck and basically looks like “Pam” from the office, making the “let herself go” comments from her husband and mother seem inappropriate at best, and despicable at worst.

But compared to other movies featuring widows who are also single moms, she’s not entirely down on her luck – she has what appears to be a steady job as a dental hygienist somewhere in or near her Long Island home, she has a reliable car, she seems to have a decent relationship with her young son, and her parents have offered to pay for private school tuition even though she and her son would have preferred for him to stay in public school (his new school leads to a 9/11-related plot twist that is interesting, but has nothing to do with the lawsuit).

It’s also her family’s perception of her that comes into play in the scenes with her lawyer and scenes with her sister.

Laura is at first unaware that the attorney is, in fact, a litigator when she meets with him to go over her financial paperwork after her husband dies. So when the lawyer tells her she should be OK, he means after a settlement or trial she’ll be financially OK.

Even though Laura is iffy on even pursuing a lawsuit – citing that her husband possibly lied to the doctor so as not to admit he was cheating her, which possibly led to the misdiagnosis of his heart condition as anxiety instead of arrhythmia – the lawyer and her sister insist she continue.

Her sister also at one point asks her how the lawsuit is going, even though she said she had spoken with the lawyer at a party and already knew the depositions were almost over, more than Laura knew or seemed to care to know at that point.

The lawyer does a few other ethically questionable things in the movie when it comes to how he handles the case, but I don’t want to give everything away as the film will, hopefully, receive a wider release after its run on the festival circuit. Or it will likely at least be available via Netflix or a cable movie channel at some point.

If you happened to catch this at the festival, did you have any thoughts about the film or the portrayal of the attorney character? Do you think the way this lawyer, and others, are portrayed on film as not letting their clients make their own decisions is realistic or fair?

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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