Doctor-turned lawyer Alan Genicoff makes a sought-after expert witness.
Date: February 1, 2012
Say a man steps on a toothpick. The puncture is deep enough that he decides to visit his local emergency department, where they clean it, bandage it, give him a tetanus shot, and send him on his way. But a week later, he’s back again, this time with a nasty infection, and his entire foot is in danger. Records are reviewed, questions are asked, and it comes to light that the patient’s doctor never administered antibiotics during his first ER visit—a step that should have been a no-brainer. Enter the malpractice lawsuit, and perhaps, Alan Genicoff ’81.
A full-time emergency medicine physician at Dameron Hospital in Stockton, Calif., Genicoff regularly takes his professional expertise into the courtroom, where he often serves as an expert witness in medical malpractice cases. It’s a role that physicians across the country play every day. But Genicoff has an advantage that most other physicians do not: In addition to his medical degree, he holds a JD.
“I’m able to take my medical background, tie it together with my legal background, and figure out what doctors did or didn’t do, whether they met the standard of care, and explain why and how,” says Genicoff, a 2007 graduate of the Indiana School of Law, Indianapolis. “Put another way, I can explain how medicine works within the context of the law.” His ability to do so, he says, puts the attorneys he works with at a distinct advantage against the opposition.
Though he also works for defense cases, most of his work so far has been on the plaintiff’s side, reviewing medical records and looking for the place—or places—where things went wrong and then offering expert opinion under oath, in the form of an affidavit, deposition, or court testimony. Often the error occurred at the hands of a harried physician who skipped or overlooked an important step in the course of care. Then there are fraudulent claim cases known as false claims, such as services submitted for billing but not performed by the treating physician.
During law school, Genicoff served as a law clerk in the Medical Licensing Section of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. “I dealt specifically with physician consumer complaints,” he says. “In the beginning I couldn’t believe how many health care providers did bad things.”
“Greed and arrogance are powerful motivators, often to the physician’s detriment,” he says. “Sometimes physicians go to the dark side and, regrettably, act on those behaviors again and again. It rarely happens just one time: It’s a pattern of behavior that gets physicians into trouble.” LG