Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell represents healthcare clients in claims involving professional liability and product liability resulting in serious injury and wrongful death. We also handle high-stakes business disputes and antitrust matters for organizations and individuals working in specialized fields across the healthcare and life sciences industries.
Our clients include healthcare professionals, health systems, institutions, and companies, as well as their vendors, service providers, and insurers. With a robust medical devices and pharmaceuticals practice, WTO routinely represents life sciences, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies and their distributors in complex, highly charged litigation.
We are regularly retained on the eve of trial to try difficult cases involving serious physical injuries or death, often in plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions, when prior resolution strategies or trial preparations have not achieved the desired results.
Technical and Practical Knowledge
WTO employs several full-time physician consultants and nurse-paralegals who have experience in the daily practice of medicine and health-related businesses. These professionals bring tremendous practical knowledge to our teams and help identify issues and opportunities related to our clients' cases.
All this knowledge helps our teams communicate effectively with professionals in medicine, engineering, the sciences, and other areas to prepare for trial and develop persuasive briefs and courtroom demonstratives. We are always thinking about how critical, complex aspects of a case may be simplified for judges and jurors who may not be familiar with the subject area, and we develop themes that weave those key points together and make them meaningful and memorable for our audiences.
- Representing a medical facility in an appeal after an adverse verdict in post-trial motions. The case concerns the corporate practice of medicine doctrine and the constitutionality of damages caps. Briefed and argued the appeal, which has garnered attention from industry groups and amici.
- Defending a large health system against one of the earliest filed claims in the U.S. involving a COVID-19-related patient death.
- Representing a national health and wellness company in a consumer class action related to the closure of massage spas due to COVID-19.
- Counseled a healthcare industry insurer on best practices for risk management amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Won Montana Supreme Court victory for a health system in a putative consumer class action that challenged its policy of issuing refunds in the form of pre-paid debit cards. The victory affirmed WTO's prior summary judgment win and defeated the plaintiff's new claims on appeal.
- Serving as lead counsel to a health system to defend against a putative consumer class action in Montana challenging medical records charges.
- Won a defense verdict after a four-week trial for a physician facing $70 million in damages claims arising from allegations that WTO's client and others failed to timely diagnose and treat bacterial meningitis in a minor. Seven co-defendants settled, leaving WTO's physician client and another physician defendant alone at trial.
- In re Gadolinium-Based Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2868 (J.P.M.L. 2018) - As lead national trial counsel to GE Healthcare, successfully argued before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to defeat plaintiffs' attempt create an MDL involving gadolinium-based contrast agents.
- Won a defense verdict in federal court for a hospital and its staff against $27 million malpractice and negligence claims involving a subdural empyema.
- Won an appeal regarding application of the Anti-SLAPP statute to a defamation action brought by a physician against a hospital.
- Won a defense verdict in Philadelphia, during the week of Christmas, for a hospital and its physician assistant who diagnosed muscle strain when in fact the plaintiff had an infection that resulted in the amputation of her leg. The jury agreed with WTO's arguments that, given the circumstances, the original diagnosis was reasonable.
- Obtained dismissal for an Ohio hospital in a medical malpractice action. WTO lawyers, with co-counsel from Ohio, successfully challenged the plaintiff's unscientific and unsupported theory that cranial compression from the normal birth process can cause brain damage. Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the case during a Daubert hearing after examination of only two of plaintiff's seven scheduled experts.
- Successfully represented a leading regional healthcare network as lead trial counsel in a high-stakes trademark dispute against a national healthcare insurance provider.
- Won a unanimous defense verdict in a $55 million trial in eastern Kentucky for a hospital accused of malpractice.
- Won a defense jury verdict in Ohio for two neonatologists facing claims of negligently handling the care of a newborn baby.
- Won summary judgment on multiple claims for a national dermatology practice with over 50 offices. Claims included breach of contract, conspiracy, fraud, and other allegations. Once the major claims were dismissed, the plaintiffs agreed to a nuisance settlement that involved no payment by WTO's client.
- Won a motion to dismiss for a hospital client in New York in a matter of first impression involving Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) claims in the Second Circuit. The Court affirmatively ruled that the hospital's obligations under EMTALA ceased upon admitting the plaintiff.
- Won a complete defense jury verdict for a mental health hospital in Virginia. The plaintiff claimed $32 million in damages arising from an alleged patient-on-patient sexual assault.
- Won a complete defense verdict and dismissal of punitive damages claims for a Wyoming hospital and codefendant physicians facing non-negotiable $19 million negligence claims brought by a plaintiff who suffered a stroke following emergency room treatment for a head wound.
- Won a defense jury verdict in Ohio for an obstetrician facing claims of medical negligence and lack of informed consent, and damages claims in excess of $15 million, arising from a stroke suffered by a newborn following a difficult delivery. The obstetrician passed away tragically and unexpectedly before trial, making the defense of the care problematic.
- Won a complete defense jury verdict in California for an emergency room doctor in a medical malpractice lawsuit with over $22 million at stake in damages claims. WTO was called in just 10 days prior to the three-week trial.
- Won a defense jury verdict for a spinal surgeon in a multimillion-dollar medical malpractice lawsuit in Colorado. The patient experienced a complication during surgery that resulted in partial paralysis. WTO lawyers demonstrated that our client was not at fault. Following the two-week trial, jurors delivered a complete defense verdict.
- Won a defense jury verdict in Ohio in a two-week trial involving allegations of medical malpractice resulting in birth injuries. The plaintiffs sought over $18 million in damages, and WTO lawyers were brought in to defend the case just three weeks before trial.
- Warden v. Exempla (Colo. App. 2014) - Won affirmation from the Colorado Court of Appeals in a defense verdict for WTO's labor and delivery nurse client. Plaintiffs had claimed $17 million in this obstetrical malpractice claim.
- Won an appeal argued before the Colorado Supreme Court challenging a trial court's order to submit Quality Management Privileged (QMP) materials relating to an incident at issue in a medical malpractice trial. The appellate decision is significant, as the QMP designation allows hospitals and healthcare providers to assess and innovate following critical incidents without concern that their discussions will be discovered.
- Obtained dismissal of claims against a private hospital, establishing an exception to the traditional rule of vicarious liability in New York State.
- Won a defense jury verdict in Columbus, Ohio, in a medical malpractice case involving paraplegia allegedly resulting from failure to timely diagnose a spinal epidural abscess.
- Won a complete defense verdict in federal court in Colorado for an emergency physician in a three-week medical malpractice trial in which the plaintiff alleged misdiagnosis leading to paralysis and asserted damage claims of $12 million.
- Won a complete defense verdict in state court in Minnesota in a case involving allegations that a doctor's spinal epidural injection resulted in paraplegia. Prior to trial, the plaintiffs rejected a $4 million offer of judgment. Following two weeks of testimony, the jury deliberated 11 hours over two days, returning with a unanimous defense verdict.
- Served as national counsel to a global healthcare company in multidistrict litigation involving over 12,000 claims relating to dialysis products. WTO helped develop national resolution strategy, identified bellwether cases, and negotiated settlement of all claims.
- Obtained victory before the Colorado Court of Appeals for a bariatric surgeon. WTO lawyers tried and won the original case, which involved alleged complications following gastric bypass surgery. The Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiff's assertions that the lower court erred in precluding certain expert testimony and affirmed the 2011 trial court verdict.
- Won a unanimous defense verdict for a labor and delivery nurse in a $17 million, three-and-a-half-week obstetrical malpractice trial in Colorado state court.
- Won a unanimous defense verdict for four psychiatric hospital nurses in a two-week medical malpractice trial in Boston involving the tragic death of a child. Despite the fact that one nurse admitted negligence for herself and implicated the other three, WTO lawyers effectively argued that the nurse's negligence did not cause the patient's death and that the other nurses acted appropriately within the scope of their responsibilities.
- Banner Health v. Phoenix Children's Hospital - Represented Phoenix Children's Hospital in a claim asserted by Banner Health that a merger between PCH and another healthcare entity triggered a termination clause in a lease of PCH's neonatal ICU. Following a two-week trial, the arbitrator terminated the lease.
- Won a defense decision for a Philadelphia psychiatric hospital in a two-day medical malpractice arbitration involving the death of a patient killed in an auto accident hours after being discharged.
- Obtained a favorable outcome in a Florida medical malpractice trial involving the death of a 43-year-old man following out-patient hernia surgery. Brought in just a week before trial, the WTO team effectively argued for our client in court, leading the jury to assign primary liability to the patient's family and a non-party surgeon, not to WTO's client. The resulting jury award was less than what our client had offered during trial to settle the case.
- Won a defense verdict for a Florida hospital in a three-week medical malpractice trial. The case involved a baby who suffered cerebral palsy after a rare delivery complication. The plaintiff sued the hospital for $7 million, claiming complications could have been avoided had a C-section been performed. The WTO team successfully argued the complication was unpredictable and unpreventable, and the doctors actually saved the mother and child.
- Obtained a favorable settlement for a large excess insurance company in a medical malpractice case involving a permanent disability to a young child resulting from surgery conducted by a doctor who was not board certified.
- Won a jury defense verdict for a Colorado bariatric surgeon in Denver District Court.
- Won a defense verdict for a Washington D.C. hospital in a $40 million medical malpractice lawsuit that involved a baby born with severe brain damage.
- Affirmed on appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals WTO's unanimous defense jury verdict for a hospital after a three-week trial in Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs alleged the doctor provided less than the standard of care, resulting in an infant's cerebral palsy. WTO established the child's condition was attributable to his 14-week premature birth.
- Ford v. Eicher (Colo. Sup. Ct. 2011) - Secured a landmark victory from the Colorado Supreme Court for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in a case involving the reliability of the intrauterine forces theory of labor as applied in shoulder dystocia matters.
- Won a unanimous jury defense verdict for a cardiothoracic surgeon in a two-week medical malpractice trial involving injuries associated with an atrial fibrillation surgery.
- Won a jury defense verdict for an orthopedic spine surgeon in a medical malpractice case with millions of dollars in damage claims at stake, including eight years of accruing pretrial interest.
- Represented a hospital in a four-week trial in California involving special damages in excess of $10 million in claims relating to the care of an adult male with brain damage. The jury returned a verdict of $6 million, but also found the plaintiff 75% contributory negligent. After the setoff from settling the defendant, WTO's client owed only $37,000.
- Won a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case in Florida involving permanent brain injury to a well-known plaintiff's lawyer. WTO was asked to take over the case two weeks into trial and after both local and regional defense counsel recommended settling the case for $12-15 million.
- Won a Colorado Court of Appeals opinion upholding WTO's jury defense verdict in a medical malpractice trial involving shoulder dystocia.
- Won a jury defense verdict in Denver District Court for a prominent Denver heart surgeon.
- Villalpando v. Denver Health, 181 P.3d 357 (Colo. App. 2007) - Won affirmation from the Colorado Court of Appeals for four doctors in a medical tort case involving wrongful death claims relating to medical treatment provided to the plaintiff's husband before his death.
- Obtained a defense verdict in a New Hampshire trial involving the death of a 63-year-old man following complications from gall bladder surgery. With just two weeks' notice, WTO demonstrated that an empty oxygen tank, which the decedent used for supplemental oxygen shortly before his cardiac arrest, did not cause his death. Ultimately, the jury agreed.
- Represented a health system and obtained favorable settlement in a breach of contract action based on the termination of a management services contract for a Colorado hospital's oncology department.
- Defended a health system against antitrust claims and state law claims in multiple lawsuits brought by physicians relating to failed joint ventures.
- Counseled healthcare providers regarding antitrust implications of joint venture transactions, the development of integrated networks, ACOs, managed care contracting, and price and cost surveys among competitors.
- Successfully represented a diagnostic testing company against class action allegations following a high-profile hepatitis outbreak at a hospital, and obtained a complete dismissal of all claims without any settlement payment by WTO's client.
- Defeated a motion to compel a hospital's internal quality control review following the death of a patient, establishing a federal peer review privilege, and defeated a motion to compel the hospital's plan of correction.
- Represent a senior partner of a physicians group in a federal investigation into alleged healthcare fraud and related qui tam proceedings.
- Following opening arguments, negotiated favorable settlement of a $50 million medical malpractice lawsuit in Iowa.