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May 31, 2007

A Handy Tip on the Blogging Tip

This one goes out to all the MDs out there, and the occasional DO as well: When in doubt, don't blog your own medical malpractice trial. Especially don't mock the opposing counsel, who in this particular case found the blog in question and dropped it like a bomb into the courtroom, forcing the MD in question to settle the case for a reportedly very large sum.

Seriously: there's got to be something about blogging, and particularly blogging anonymously, that makes people's IQs drop. And if not their IQs, at the very least their common sense. On the other hand, this will be a new instruction for lawyers to give their clients: Don't blog your own trial, you moron. That's got to be worth an hour's of billing right there.

Posted by john at May 31, 2007 10:51 AM

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Steve Buchheit | May 31, 2007 11:02 AM

I think this just goes to show that just because you may have an advanced degree, it doesn't mean you're smart.

Clay | May 31, 2007 11:02 AM

I think it's more on the loss of common sense side. The Internet makes you think you're anonymous and invulnerable, meaning you don't have to learn from other people's experiences.

Those people who lost their jobs because their employer found their blog and figured out their identity? What does that have to do with blogging about this lawsuit being a bad idea?

CJ-in-Weld | May 31, 2007 11:07 AM

Heh. In my neck of the woods, gang investigators have already started to incorporate suspects' myspace sites into investigations.

"I'm not in a gang."

"Well, what about this picture of you in a blue bandanna flashing gang signs and claiming to Mexican Pride Sureno?"

"Oh, that...."

Jim Wright | May 31, 2007 11:36 AM

Just for future reference, I don't think I'll be taking my kid to see Dr. Flea. What an jackass.

JonathanMoeller | May 31, 2007 11:46 AM

The Internet is the physical incarnation of karma; everything you write WILL come back to haunt you one day, so best not write anything online that you wouldn't mind coming back to bite you in the rump.

This kind of thing isn't even all that rare any more. When I was in graduate school, there was a semi-uproar over this student who blogged rather forthright opinions of the other students, his advisor, his professor, and his department head, and was just shocked, shocked, shocked when his assistantship was suddenly pulled. Last I heard, the lawsuit was still going on.

F-L | May 31, 2007 12:03 PM


kurt | May 31, 2007 12:19 PM

So he vented his frustration at the legal system on his blog.......which may or may not be relevant to whether or not he is innocent...but we will never really know because the possibility of adverse publicity caused him to settle and took the decision out of the jury's hands.

Its not hard to imagine that this could be spin doctored..sorry!! by another lawyer in another context, in another case to reach a totally different outcome in which the blogger wins.

Just a thought

John Scalzi | May 31, 2007 12:26 PM


"but we will never really know because the possibility of adverse publicity caused him to settle and took the decision out of the jury's hands."

I don't think it was the possibility of adverse publicity; I think it was the possibility of the Jury not taking kindly to his characterization of the job they were doing. I think it's that this fellow came to the conclusion he'd screwed the pooch -- and that his legal team didn't seem to think they could get the judge to declare a mistrial.

Whatever the reason, he was still foolish to blog about it.

critter42 | May 31, 2007 12:42 PM

Is there any archive of his blog anywhere? - the article notes that it has been taken down, but I am interested to see the remarks he did make about the case.

It's a shame he settled. This would have been interesting to see play out of he had said "so what?" when confronted with being the blogger. Would it be considered a mistrial, would a summary judgement have been issued, just a warning by the judge, contempt of court? Since IANAL, I just don't know what might have happened otherwise.

Also, to me there is nothing sadder than to see someone be half-assed arrogant - he's arrogant enough to blog the case, but not arrogant enough to say "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" when he's busted on it.

KevinQ | May 31, 2007 01:11 PM

I haven't checked the content, but you might want to try the Internet Wayback Machine:



kurt | May 31, 2007 01:18 PM

John and Critter 42

I will admit to a negative bias towards our legal system and lawyers in particular.....
I think its a real shame that we as Americans feel its our right to find someone to blame and then sue them..with the help of one of the several hundred attorneys you will find in the yellow pages. I know this is not always the case but it seems as if there are a lot of lawsuits that dont make a lot of sense and the medical community in particular seems to get targeted.

As to the bloggers arrogance, There are a several proffesions out there where arrogance or maybe even buckets of self confidence seem to be a requirement of the job....and one can easily be confused for the other depending on who is making the judgement.

Fighter pilot, doctor, Explosive ordinance disposal tech.........

Kate | May 31, 2007 01:39 PM

I was actually going to blog about this today. How ironic!John of course, beat me to it.

Yes, we live in an overly litigious society. I'm amazed that lawyers are still soliciting for cases on daytime t.v.

Regardless, while I have a major problem with blogs being used to discriminate against people for jobs and degrees, (you heard about the woman who was denied her teaching degree after posting a picture with the caption 'drunk pirate' underneath her name, right?)this story happens to fall under the realm of stupidity.

If you are the center of a trial where a child died because of a missed diagnosis, wouldn't you do everything your power to come across as a caring and compassionate doctor?

No, Mr. Flea decides he's going to rip apart the prosecution, throw insults at the trial lawyer and accuse the jury of apathy.

I'm also amazed how once a person wears the mask of anonymity, that it automatically curses them with a major case of the 'assholes.'

Something tells me had he actually posted under his real name, he would have watched every word that he typed.

Anonymity = cowardliness in my book.

He deserved exactly what he got.

andrew | May 31, 2007 01:42 PM

Dear Kurt,

Remember the facts of the case. A 12 year old died of complications of diabetes because Dr. Flea did not diagnose it.

Diabetes is pretty simple to diagnose; it takes a blood sugar test. For an adult, a reading of over 7 MmoL is enough to warrant a provisional diagnosis of diabetes. I am not sure of what it would take for a child (I am not a doctor, but a diabetic) If the 12 year old had died two weeks later of complications of diabetes in all liklihood his blood sugar levels would have been much higher.

Somehow the notion that this poor, poor doctor was "targetted" by greedy parents and avaricious lawyers is a stretch. Simple disease, simple diagnosis, the doctor blew it and a child died. His insurance rates deserve to go up.

It is also a myth (propogated by insurance companies no doubt) that Americans are trigger happy with their lawsuits. Not true. The folks at the Rand corporation did a study a few years back showing the incidence of lawsuits given the potential for a lawsuit. Folks in car accident who had a potential lawsuit sued about 50% of the time. The folks who sued the least; medical malpractice victims. They sued about 10% of the time. It has also been found that the biggest predictors of when a lawsuit will be filed in a medical malpractice case is the doctor's attitude after the malpractice happened. Drs who were not arrogant pricks about things tend to not get sued; given what flea appeared to be saying in the blog posts he may be the arrogant prick that gets sued.


Full disclosure. I am a lawyer. I was called to the bar in Ontario in 1991. I practice exclusively in a legal clinic serving the legal needs of people living in poverty in my community.

Tor | May 31, 2007 02:10 PM

Insurance companies spend millions of dollars a year in advertising, lobbying and astroturfing to convince americans that lawsuits are destroying the country. The fact is, it isn't true.

The legal system isn't perfect, but what other system would you use to hold doctors accountable when they screw up? When doctors make mistakes they shouldn't have, it would be suicidal for us to let them pat us on the back, say 'my bad' and go on with thier practice.

There was an experiment done in NH I believe, some time ago, where anestesiologists (sp?) decided to do something about their high med-mal premiums. So they looked at every med-mal case in the state over the last few years, and figured out what triggered the suits.

Some of the things they discovered were outright mistakes, and they instituted protocol to ensure that those mistakes weren't made again. Some were only percieved to be mistakes by the patient, and they stopped doing those too.

So rather than bitch and moan about trial lawyers and the high cost of med-mal insurance, they looked into the root causes of the judgments, fixed those problems, and ended up with the lowest med-mal premiums in the state.

Fix the problem, not the blame.

kurt | May 31, 2007 02:29 PM

Andrew, Tor,

You both make excellant points and I appreciate your taking the time to post them for us.

I know that there are good and bad people in every career field out there and probably tend to generalize based on my own experiences and bias.

I agree that fixing the problem is a more positive way then trying to fix blame but I still believe that a lot of people think that a lawsuit may be a way to get ahead in life and again, I make this statement based on personal experience.

both of you seem to be dialed into this and I am willing to have my mind changed but forgive me if I continue to be a bit skeptical......

It really bothers me that I would have to hire an attorney just so I could understand what it is I am being sued for and why!!!

Tor | May 31, 2007 03:12 PM

There are bad lawyers out there, just like there are bad judges, bad doctors, bad electricians... When someone comes to me with an idea for a lawsuit (I don't do plaintiff's work, so it's usually friends) I usually tell them they want nothing to do with any type of litigation, unless they don't have another option.

I wouldn't be a lawyer if I was doing bs slip and falls, or even med-mal work. Nor am I a white knight like Andrew - but what I do, I do ethically and to get my clients the best result possible.

A good lawyer will dissuade his or her client from filing a lawsuit without merit, and the court system does have some safeguards in place. But that doesn't mean that people aren't sued unfairly, and that mistakes are not made.

As for having to hire a lawyer, I personally think it is bs that I have to hire an electrician to replace a circuit board in my oven, at the cost of over a thousand dollars. But at the same time, IANAE - and I don't particularly want to burn down my house because I installed the wiring incorrectly. So I'll either get a new oven, or hire an electrician - because it's important.

You don't have to get a lawyer to represent yourself, you can appear pro se, and the courts will normally bend over backwards to help you, but if you have significant liability at stake, well, you just may need a lawyer.

Tim of Angle | May 31, 2007 04:31 PM

This was fundamentally a self-inflicted wound. The first thing a lawyer will tell a defendant is to turn into Sgt Schultz: Say Nothing (N-O-T-H-I-N-G) about the case unless you are on the stand under oath answering a question.

That having been said ... unless me made some admission during his blogging that he was (in fact) negligent, I fail to see how anything that he said on the blog would have been admissible at trial.

Saying nasty things about opposing counsel outside of the courtroom is irrelevant and inadmissible.

Saying nasty things about the jury outside of the courtroom is irrelevant and inadmissible.

There's got to be more to it than we see in the story -- which is an excellent reminder not to be too quick to jump to conclusions about a situation based on newspaper reports.

Andrew | May 31, 2007 05:10 PM


Thank you for the compliment. No-one has ever called me a white knight; I have been told that I rock.

As for Kurt's concerns, they have some legitimacy. Nobody likes to be sued, and very few people geniunely feel that they have done wrong when being sued. It can be frustrating if you get sued.

I echo what Tor said about having to hire an electrician when something goes wrong, although I would have probably used the example of the automechanic ($2000.00 for that? !@#$%%^&).

People have an easier time understanding paying the electrician (or in my case the automechanic) because what they are dealing with is mechanically technical and we know why we don't understand the technology. Lawyering involves concepts and most people equate concepts with words and most people understand words; they don't get why something that is "just words" should be so complicated. The words may not be complicated (although sometime they are) but the concepts sometimes can be.

The concepts behind the law can be difficult because often times there are two opposing sides on each issue that often will feel strongly about their case. The two sides will litigate and the resulting case will often have complexities.

Reasonable people should resolve their differences. In a huge variety of cases they do; however not everyone is reasonable. When you have 300 million Americans (or 30 million Canadians) just enough people will be unreasonable that you end up having a lot of lawsuits. Unfortunately for you, all it takes is one unreasonable person to get a lawsuit started.

In terms of bringing forward unmeritorious claims I try not to do that. Doing Legal Aid work, my services are free; that means that I do have to ration the services and one of the ways I ration them is by merit. I try (and usually succeed) in taking only cases that are arguable; I figure that if the case is arguable then I should be assisting in doing the argument. Sometimes things change and the case isn't so meritorious and I may not be able to stop it; stuff happens.

The other way that unmeritorious claims get brought forward is by the litigants. Some are unscrupulous. But more often than not, most people truly believe in the justice of their claim no matter how absurd it is. I have had situations where folks walk into my office wanting my help in a case that is an absolute dog and I know from reviewing the information that I am the second or third person that has reviewed the file and come to that conclusion. They don't often give up. If you are persistant enough, you will find someone who is willing to take the case on.


kurt | May 31, 2007 05:47 PM

Tor, Andrew,

The more you guys say, the more I like you. You both seem like truely reasonable and more importantly, ethical people.

I am retired Air Force, I worked 3 years post military as a correctional officer.....want to hear some stories about lawsuits brought by inmates against CO's??

I went back to school and was pre-med for two years until the legal ramifications frightened the crap out of me!

I am now one of those guys who fix almost anything...AKA general Handyman. I can promise you I spend a whole lot less on my liability insurance then I would have for mal practice coverage.

As for what a service professional charges for his services, if it was easy, anyone could do it and the kind of skills required to do a lot of things around the house seem to elude a lot of people so there you are.......it isnt so much that its hard to change a circuit board...its knowing that the board is bad and needs to be changed!!!!

Amanda J | May 31, 2007 09:53 PM

Well, at least I now know exactly why Flea's blog went down. I came across it one day (I have a tiny little addiction to medblogs) and was enjoying reading the current and backposts. Then I went back another day and *poof*! Gone.


I do remember that Flea never spoke directly of the cause of action against him, other than the fact that it was a medmal case. He did make remarks about opposing counsel, and I read the entry he made about the jury expert (cited in the linked article).

I also remember wondering if his attorney knew he kept a blog and if the attorney had been given the URL to same. To me, as a former lowly legal secretary, it just didn't seem wise to blog while in the middle of a medmal trial even if the only identifying information was "a pediatrician in the northeast", and mentioning that opposing counsel bit her nails, as I know lawyers do read blogs, and yes, specifically medblogs.

Flea was a great blogger from an entertainment and educational point of view. As the mother of two small children, many of his posts helped me keep my head screwed on straight when my kids had high fevers and of course, freaked-out mom that I am, I worried about meningitis. Reading his posts smacked me back to reality, thankfully, and I stopped consulting Dr. Google and fretting.

And as one who still enjoys reading about the legal profession (although I'm relieved to have left it -- family, criminal, and dependency law are a teensy bit stressful), I was interested in his take on the situation as the defendant in a medmal case.

I have to say that, while reading his blog, I really thought highly of him as a pediatrician. The cause of action for the medmal trial, of course, gives me pause, but as I don't know all the facts behind the case I really don't know why he missed a diagnosis that, to me, seems pretty clear cut. I would be interested to hear his side of the story, but as that ain't gonna happen, I'll just say that you all raise excellent points about the wisdom of blogging about this type of thing while it's going on (i.e., it's nonexistent), and I'm going to miss the Flea.

Natalie | May 31, 2007 10:35 PM

Good old med malp. Last year it went up 42% for me, even though I had been in practice for 9 years and was squeaky clean. It went up because there is one company that provides malpractice in my state, and they have a total monopoly. You want to practice medicine here -- pony up! I lasted just under 10 years in private practice and left 3 months ago. One of the reasons was my underlying fear that I would miss something or screw up, cause harm, and be dragged through the mud for it. Couldn't hack that. Now I'm working in the public health sector no longer seeing patients, and I was (am?) a good doctor.

Flea was a dipsh*t, for writing that stuff in a blog. Book smart, common sense stupid. Medical fleas, btw, are not what he said in the article (pediatricians in training). Surgeons call medicine folk fleas, because they congregate in groups around patients' beds and wear flea collars (aka stethoscopes) around their necks.

I was a neuron. :-)

mythago | June 2, 2007 07:24 AM

I also remember wondering if his attorney knew he kept a blog

I remember reading his blog and thinking that when his own lawyer found out about it, the shit was going to hit the fan.

I concur with Jim Wright. No idea how good a pediatrician the guy was technically, but his attitude is Exhibit A as to why malpractice suits happen. You can have all the mad doc skillz in the world, but if you're an arrogant asshole, your patients are not going to forgive you if you mess up.

David Neal | June 5, 2007 09:38 AM

If you could just strike out trial and replace that with "life" I think it would be perfect.

Thanks to the wayback machine and net-savvy employers, anything you say or do is potential
fodder for the hiring process.

Do you really want your flock of seagulls haircut to come up twenty years later?

See "Chronicles of Mixerman" for a blog that rendered a fascinating look into the recording of an album, and which eventually went oh so wrong
for the blogger.
I think he was "cease and desisted" but eventually turned it into a book.
Not sure how employable he is after some of the scathing comments about the music industry, though.

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