LNCtips.com: Order, Stipulation, and Petition
You've probably have heard the terms "order," "stipulation," and "petition" if you've watched legal dramas on television. Those terms are used every day in the real world, too. But what do they really mean?
Let's look at the easy one first - orders. Orders aren't difficult for legal nurse consultants to understand because they know about medical orders. Orders in the medical setting are written by physicians, advanced practice nurses, and other authorized professionals. In the legal setting, only the presiding official (usually a judge) issues orders. In court, the judge writes or verbalizes orders, which are proclamations of the judge's decisions. These decisions can be in response to objections during a trial or a ruling on a complicated issue during a hearing.
Stipulations, and petitions originate with the parties' attorneys, not judges. Stipulations are agreements between the attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendant. For example, the plaintiff and defendant attorneys may stipulate to the value of the plaintiff's lost wages. In medical malpractice cases, a common stipulation by attorneys is an agreement that a provider's medical records will be admissible without the need for the actual records custodian to appear. There is strategy involved with stipulations. For example, attorneys may not agree to stipulate to the credentials of their experts because they want the jury to hear those credentials.
We all know about petitions because they abound electronically on the internet and physically in many public places. (The entrance to my local library is a favorite spot for petitioners to get signatures for favorite causes.) These petitions require thousands of signatures to influence organizations or request a change in local, state, or federal statutes.
Unlike these types of public petitions, a petition in a medical malpractice case is a request that attorneys, on behalf of their clients, submit to the court asking for judicial intervention. A petition is a formal written request to a court requesting a court order. A common petition is a request by a plaintiff's attorney to extend time. In medical malpractice litigation, an attorney may request to extend the statute of limitations. For example, in North Carolina, plaintiff attorneys can petition the court to extend the statute of limitations for up to 120 days. In such cases, the petition must be filed before the statute of limitations has actually expired. Petitions can also include requests for continuances, dismissal of the case and other legal actions. The Complaint (the first document filed in a lawsuit) is called a petition in some states.
Orders, stipulations, and petitions are everyday occurrences in medical malpractice cases. Knowing the vocabulary of legal terms can help LNCs discuss legal processes with attorneys.