Doctor's attempt to sanction estate of patient who sued for malpractice is defeated
The family of Elizabeth Kitchen sued her doctor, Michael Dargay, D.O., for malpractice which they alleged caused her death. Experienced case evaluators placed a compromise settlement amount of $125,000.00 on the case against Dargay, but his insurer and the family both rejected the compromise. Oakwood Hospital paid $17,500.00 to settle claims that it was vicariously responsible for Dargay's negligence and the family and doctor went to trial, where the jury refused to hold Dargay responsible for the death. Dargay then sought $42,000.00 from the Estate for his legal fees and expenses.Dargay also sought to force the Estate's attorneys to pay to him the equivalent of the $17,500.00 hospital settlement, which had been used to cover out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the family to bring the case to trial. The Court refused to make the third-party settlement available to Dargay as a sanction, determining that to do so would discourage parties from settling multiple-party claims: no settlement could be accomplished without all parties reaching agreement. Even though this meant that there was nothing in the Estate to pay Dargay's requested sanctions, the court pointed out that there are many situations where failure-to-settle sanctions are not collectible from Plaintiffs and Defendants: the sanction exposure is not a "promise to pay" under all circumstances, but can always constitute a set-off or adjustment against a judgment involving the two direct parties.