Attorney Marc Breakstone was featured today in a front page article in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly concerning factors which may influence plaintiffs’ attorneys to take medical malpractice cases to arbitration and waive the right to a jury trial.
Attorney Breakstone, a medical malpractice lawyer who has practiced in Boston for 28 years, has obtained record-setting awards for clients in medical malpractice cases involving surgical malpractice, failure to diagnose cancer and ambulance negligence.
Breakstone was among a group of Boston medical malpractice lawyers who were interviewed by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. The lawyers cited a number of reasons for taking cases to arbitration, including the ability to remove some of the risk when insurance companies agree to pay plaintiffs within a range of compensation limits at the end of the process.
Breakstone said the personal needs of a plaintiff may also be a valid reason for choosing arbitration. He recalled the case of a terminally ill patient whose trial was delayed.
“I was uncertain my client was going to live that long,” Breakstone said. “I elected to waive a jury and arbitrate the case so that my client could have her day in court, so to speak, and see her case to the end.”
A plaintiff’s personal circumstances may also come into play, Breakstone said. For instance, if a plaintiff is an undocumented immigrant, jurors may consider that over the facts of the case.
“You’re more likely to get a fair hearing in front of an arbitrator who’s more likely to disregard those factors,” Breakstone said.
Arbitration may also be the best choice in cases when aggravating factors work against a defendant, such as substance abuse, Breakstone said. In those cases, the plaintiff may obtain a higher award from an arbitrator.
“A jury is more likely to be upset and want to punish the defendant in a compensatory award than an arbitrator would,” he said.