Can you tell me a little bit about the case?
In 2011, a 15-year old boy died in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit while under care of the defendant, a pediatric intensivist. The boy was in the highest level care facility in the community, but they wanted to transfer him to a university hospital. Early that morning, the child was alert, stable and joking with his mother as he awaited transport. Without first consulting with the physician team of specialists, the doctor administered a sedative to the boy. Just minutes after administration of sedation, the child’s oxygen levels crashed. The team of specialists rushed in to save the child, but the giving of sedation had triggered an irreversible death spiral. Shortly after noontime, the child was dead.
How did you use TLC methods in that case?
A lot of effort was spent making sure that we had the right story emotionally. We brought the family to New York City to spend a full day doing psychodrama with them and a licensed psychodramatist. That was extraordinarily helpful to understanding more deeply the destruction and devastation to the family, especially to the teenage sisters. One of the scenes we did in psychodrama took place in the ICU that morning. Mom told the story and, in the scene, everything is okay and their son and brother is alive and well. Because it was literally the last time they were together and talking, mom’s story was extraordinarily powerful. We learned through psychodrama who this child was. It opened up the utter, infinite devastation and what a big, integral part of their family he was. Psychodrama helped me know the depth of their loss, not what I thought it might be, but what it actually was. That knowledge helped me connect with this family, and allowed me to be real with them. They lost their child. The worst loss you can imagine. My goal was to show the jury the depth of this destruction. Beginning with jury selection, our jury knew that I would be asking them to help make up for this destruction, which meant a lot of money was needed. This case started three and half years before trial, and the story we discovered through the TLC work was the same story we told from day one. We never deviated from it. We knew we had the right story. It was empowering to be consistent and emotionally truthful all the way through the trial. That’s the power of TLC’s discovering the story. We had to be brave enough to stick with that emotional truth and believe in it. That is TLC all the way. As for the verdict – the $7 million verdict was all pain and suffering money. That story was pure TLC.
How did the TLC community help you prepare this case?
I worked this case heavily with the students at TLC just weeks before the trial began. Everybody stepped up to help. I did not want this family to lose this trial. I had lost a wrongful death trial just weeks earlier. I was wounded by that. I had just a few weeks to get back on my feet, and the Ranch was exactly what I needed. I didn’t want to self-doubt the week away. We got in the rooms at the Ranch and started working. We could all work together with a single purpose: we have got to save this family. I got on my feet and started an opening. We worked on voir dire. The comments I got from the people at TLC and the changes they suggested helped us win that case. The group at TLC was just unbelievably loving and supportive. This sort of thing does not happen in any college or legal seminar that I know of. At TLC, you can go to a seminar and get on your feet and give an opening or bring in a focus group and practice jury selection. You can emotionally put yourself out there in such a raw, uninhibited fashion, and you try things on your feet not just for purposes of trial but also to understand what it does to you personally. Psychodrama helps people understand and recognize the reality of the strong emotion in the story. I’m confident that emotion helped our family connect with our jury in this trial, a story that was about the beauty of their son they lost and the family they now are without him.
Since graduating from the TLC, I feel very good about the work we are doing, and the work we are doing is the work of the Ranch with a huge psychodrama component in it. We are not masters at it. We are just doing it as well as we can right now. I think we are getting better at it but you know, we are just putting honest work out there that is real.
About John Colvin:
John is a TLC graduate with the Sept ’11 class. He practices in Florida from offices in Orlando and Jupiter , helping individuals who are seriously injured and families who have lost loved ones. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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