Saturday, September 10, 2011

Evil university attorneys: a call for nominations

Here's a recent story from Duke Fact Check, a blog about Duke University, edited slightly for clarity:

Duke operated on several thousand patients even though surgeons observed their instruments felt "slippery" and "greasy." Yes, several thousand. The surgical instruments had been mistakenly washed in used hydraulic fluid from elevators, not sterilizing detergent. The results were devastating in some cases. 

 Duke kept the lid on the story by settling with many patients; it wore others out by immorally using its firepower to procrastinate lawsuits. One of the worst legal moves in FC's opinion involves a man who was not hurt: for five years Duke wouldn't tell him if he was exposed to the filthy hydraulic fluid, so he sued. It turned out he was not affected, and now Duke is suing the man to recover its defense lawyer costs. Some days I just seethe at Duke's general counsel Pam Bernard for such tactics.

Although some issues are disputed, articles on WDTV and in the Durham News confirm the basic facts. Rather than apologize to the victims of a massive medical screw-up, Duke sued them.  This is not an isolated case, of course.  Many university lawyers seem to behave pretty badly these days.  So we're looking for examples.

If you've been the victim of hardball legal tactics by a university lawyer, or if you are a professor embarrassed by the way your institution's attorneys have behaved, send us your stories at evilattorneys at  We look forward to your responses.

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