Dorothy Clay Sims practiced workers’ compensation law, as well as Social Security disability law for over 25 years. After seeing her clients suffer multiple abuses at the hands of sketchy defense experts, she spent over a decade studying physical exams, psychological tests, electrodiagnostic studies, and anatomy. She’s put thousands of hours into learning how defense-oriented medical experts sometimes manipulate data, and she brings that knowledge to you in her popular book Exposing Deceptive Defense Doctors. Here, she offers some of her wisdom in an exclusive Q&A session.
Q: Why did you decide to write your book?
I realized that doctors were often lying regarding conclusions, and misusing the data. I also realized there were honest defense experts who would concede weakness in the case but they weren’t being asked the correct questions. Lawyers needed help with the science and many of my techniques can be used for any expert. They don’t require the lawyer to understand the nuances of a particular medical specialty. In the past, lawyers were afraid to argue the medicine with the expert. These new techniques teach the attorney how to get concessions even when they don’t understand the medicine.
Q: What was your toughest case?
A case I had 20 years ago, I’ll never forget it. The plaintiff was a hard-working man trying to raise a family, one of whom had Down syndrome. The boy would never grow up and leave home. My client was injured and saw a doctor hired by his employer. The company doctor treated him for quite a while, billing the carrier and checking off the box on the bill saying the injury was caused by a work-related injury (so he could get paid).
Thereafter, the employer decided they didn’t want to pay my client anymore so (I believe) they instructed the doctor to terminate services. The doctor then testified his condition wasn’t related to a job injury and never was. This is in spite of the fact the same doctor had been billing the employer for years saying it was work-related. I asked him if he was going to give the money back and he laughed.
Thereafter, the day of the hearing came and my client, his wife, and their son were sitting in the waiting room. The doctor walked in and the defense attorney said “Do you remember what I told you to say?” My poor client was sitting right there, his head down.
We lost the case.
The doctor’s behavior made me sick.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
Learning new ways in which some experts misrepresent the science and figuring out what to do with it. I also love teaching attorneys at private seminars because we spend all day on these topics and it gives them a chance to absorb strategy and share with each other. I learn so much from my colleagues.
Q: Do you find certain personality types are attracted to the medical field? How do you vary your strategy for different personalities?
The more obnoxious the better. When I remain calm and don’t react to threats, screaming, or storming out, it only makes them worse.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in your cases?
Keeping the lawyers who hire me from losing it in deposition. I now have a speech:
ME: You will lose it about 2 hours into the deposition.
THEM: No I won’t!
ME: Yes you will. So, here’s my advice. When you get close to that point, put yourself in time-out because I want to finish the deposition and if you are screaming at the witness because you can’t take his testimony anymore we can lose the ability to finish.
THEM: You have nothing to worry about. I never lose it.
The last 2 depositions, the lawyers lost it. I had to walk them to the hallway and put them in time-out. I think they were really upset because they realized during the exam just how badly the defense expert lied and it infuriated them because they cared about their clients.
One fellow said, laughing, “It was the first time I’ve been thrown out of my own deposition.”
Q: What changes have you noticed over the years in cross-examining doctors, if any?
The stakes are higher. The health care dollar is shrinking so doctors are becoming more desperate and more absurd in how far they will go.
Q: How do you choose your own medical experts?
I don’t hire medical experts. However, I strongly urge those who do to avoid “players” and make sure they hire folks who believe in themselves and what they do.
Q: What is your best advice for a new or inexperienced attorney with regard to deposing a defense medical expert?
Presume everything the expert says is a lie, because it just may well be. So far, for the last 4 “magna cum laud” claims in experts’ CVs, only one was correct, and, in fact, l of the 4 didn’t even graduate, nor had he ever attended medical school. This will take you far.
Q: What do you count as your greatest success?
My children. Two of my sons are in law school now and want to go into public interest law, having clerked for me in their teens and volunteered for the ACLU. They are righteous, motivated, and ready to change the world.
Dorothy Clay Sims is an attorney in Ocala, Florida. She has given over 200 lectures throughout the U.S. and in various other countries on medical/legal issues. Lawyers from all across the United States have requested Ms. Sims’ help in understanding how particular defense doctors may have misrepresented facts in their cases, and have retained her to cross-examine defense doctors.