UW Law Students ‘Depose’ UW Emergency Medicine Residents

A one-of-a-kind partnership prepares UW Emergency Medicine residents and UW Law students for malpractice lawsuits, featuring UW Law professor Bill Bailey and UW Law alumna and UW Medicine clinical instructor Dr. Nicole Chicoine Mooney, J.D., M.D.

The fear of being sued for malpractice is a looming concern for many healthcare professionals. The reality is that any physician, no matter how skilled, is likely to face a medical malpractice lawsuit at some point in their career. The aftermath of such lawsuits can be emotionally draining, and doctors often feel unprepared for the legal process. Lawyers unfamiliar with the intricacies of the healthcare field, meanwhile, can be intimidated going head-to-head in a deposition with medical professionals about a subject they know little about.

Medicolegal Day, a joint program combining UW Emergency Medicine residents and UW Law students, aims to prepare both cohorts for the realities of medical malpractice lawsuits. The day includes presentations on the basics of medical malpractice and lessons learned from prior medical malpractice lawsuits, an expert panel made up of local plaintiff and defense lawyers with medical malpractice expertise, and a mock deposition based on a real missed diagnosis case.

During the mock deposition, law students question the resident doctors one-on-one, simulating a real-life deposition. The doctors practice being deposed in a safe space, receiving detailed feedback from the students. The program not only prepares doctors for the legal challenges they may face, but also helps the law students develop skills they may not learn until later in their career.

Find out more about how this cross-disciplinary educational experience unites opposing sides of medical malpractice lawsuits to help prepare one another for challenging situations that may lie ahead.

For further reading, please check out UW Law’s 2019 article “So, Sue Me” as well as UW Emergency Medicine’s 2023 article, “UW EM Residents Team Up with UW Law Students for Novel Medicolegal Workshop.”

Read the Transcript

Dr. Nicolel Chicoine Mooney, J.D., M.D.: The unfortunate reality is if you look at the statistics, if you practice long enough, any physician is going to be faced in some form or another with a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Professor William Bailey: Usually, by the time the case gets dismissed, it's been a year and a half, two years, and is pretty miserable.

Bailey: We start out the program with our expert panel, …
Chicoine Mooney: which is made up of plaintiff and defense malpractice lawyers from the area, …
Bailey: talking about common patterns in malpractice cases.

Then, after about an hour of that the law students come in, the questioning begins, one on one, simulating a real deposition that goes on for about an hour.

Chicoine Mooney: And the mock deposition is based on a real-life emergency medicine case.

Bailey: The doctors pick the case and then I pass it along to the students. I give them a crash course in medicine because none of them have any background in that.

Chicoine Mooney: Many residents feel they're really unprepared or not educated regarding medical malpractice.

Bailey: Nothing is done in their medical education to prepare them for this huge fear on the horizon of getting sued.

Chicoine Mooney: I think what shocks them the most is the uncomfortable feeling of being, quote unquote, accused of doing something wrong.

Bailey: Taking a doctor's deposition is one of the most challenging things a lawyer can do. It's an area of discomfort, where they're talking to an expert about a subject that they know little.

Chicoine Mooney: The residents feel very defensive, and that they're being accused of something wrong, where in reality it could very well be that they're named in a suit because there was a bad outcome.

Bailey: It's a huge benefit for the doctors to be in this safe space where we can talk about the realities of what goes on.

Chicoine Mooney: I think the residents really appreciated the detailed feedback they got during the actual mock deposition. I think they also really came away with [an understanding of] how important their documentation is to protect themselves.

Bailey: I think what happens for the law students in this process is the self-mastery, that they overcome their fears and realize that hey, I can do this stuff.