Conflict of Interest

INFORMATION FOR NEW LNCs

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LNCtips.com: Conflict of Interest


Whether you are a legal nurse consultant who works independently, as an expert, or in a law firm, you need to know about the concept of conflict of interest.  Conflict of interest refers to a situation in which a person has a duty to two parties with adverse interests - for example, if an expert agrees to opine for either the plaintiff or the defense and then switches sides. But conflicts of interest occur in other situations as well.

Conflicts of interest may occur in the following situations:

* You work(ed) with the plaintiff as a caregiver.

* You work(ed)  for  the hospital or other entity being sued. 

* You work(ed) for the parent company of the healthcare entity being sued. For example, you work(ed) for an entity within the Tenet healthcare system and one of its other entities is the defendant in the case.

* You have a personal relationship with the plaintiff or defendant  - a neighbor, a member of your church or synagogue, your personal physician.

* You were employed by a plaintiff firm but moved to a defense firm (or vice versa) and the firms represent opposite parties in a case. In such a situation, you won't work on the case at the new firm. An information barrier about the case will be implemented so that you can neither disclose information about the case from the old firm nor receive information from your new one.

An information barrier for law firm LNCs is one way to avoid a conflict of interest. If you serve as an expert witness, there are other ways to avoid a conflict of interest. First, keep a list of all the cases in which you have served as an expert. The list should identify the names of plaintiffs, defendants, and attorneys involved in each case. Second, when you are asked to be an expert witness for a new case, inform the law firm if you have reviewed cases and/or testified on behalf of any of the parties in previous or ongoing cases. The law firm will decide if your involvement in any of your cases indicates a conflict of interest. Third, get enough information about the plaintiff and defendant so that you can decide if your involvement in the case would be a conflict of interest.

If you locate experts as a law firm or independent legal nurse consultant, ask potential experts whether they have reviewed cases for the opposing attorney.  A past relationship with an attorney may not be as important as a current one. Also determine if the expert has ever worked with or testified for/against the parties in your case.  Lastly, identify the expert's current and past work history and determine if it could be seen as a conflict of interest.

Because conflicts of interest imply bias, they have led to expert disqualification and reversal of jury verdicts.  But such conflicts are easy to avoid if the legal nurse consultant is diligent in identifying information about experts and their past litigation experiences.

Want to learn more about LNC skills for legal nurse consultants?  Check out the Archives.

...Katy Jones