[Author: Megan Heller**]
The first part of this series discussed the best practices for intake and management of a large group of mass tort claimants. Once the intake process is complete, a claimant’s case must be built. Tasks such as completing the plaintiff fact sheets and reviewing medical records can quickly become overwhelming, especially when court deadlines are fast approaching.
Mass Tort Plaintiff Fact Sheet Best Practices
Given the sheer volume of plaintiffs in a mass tort, courts often order plaintiff fact sheets in lieu of individual discovery. Some courts have trended toward using shorter plaintiff profile forms, while others require extensive plaintiff fact sheets. Regardless, completing these forms for a large group of clients can be one of the most daunting tasks for a firm. The task often comes with the added pressure of a looming court deadline. Consider using the following best practices when approaching plaintiff fact sheets:
- Don’t wait until the case is filed to get started. Once there is documentation that the client has a qualifying injury and was exposed to the drug or product in question, start the process of completing the plaintiff fact sheet. It can require significant time to get in touch with a client so waiting until the last minute could cause difficulty when trying to meet court imposed deadlines.
- Send each client a copy of the plaintiff fact sheet and schedule time to help them complete it. Plaintiff fact sheets can be overwhelming and confusing for clients to complete on their own. Scheduling time with your client provides opportunity for the client to ask clarifying questions and helps ensure that each question has a complete response before moving on to the next question.
- Prepare staff to handle these calls. Often, your staff will be speaking to clients who have suffered life changing events, or may even be the widow or child of a deceased claimant. Staff members must be empathetic and supportive of the client, while ensuring they capture complete and accurate information about the claim. Staff members should undergo training to learn about the litigation and ensure they understand each question on the fact sheet.
- Identify medical-related questions in the plaintiff fact sheet prior to reviewing the medical records, so when the review is performed, the relevant data points have already been identified. If data can be stored in a way that automatically populated into the plaintiff fact sheet, teams can save significant amounts of time.
Medical Mass Tort Lawsuits
Given that most mass torts cases involve a physical injury of some sort, medical records are vitally important information to have when building a mass tort case. These records not only provide proof of use, injury, and treatment, but can also identify pre-existing conditions that might limit or eliminate recovery.
It is important to know the types of medical records available and the differences between them. A few examples:
- History and physical — explains the reason for the admission, provides preliminary differential diagnoses, may note pre-exisating conditions, and defines the plan of the treatment.
- Discharge summary – provides an in depth summary of the entire hospital stay, explains any complications that occurred, and defines any lasting effects of the injury and any follow up care.
- Labs – supports the information documented in other records.
- Consultations – performed by a specialist, defines the injury in greater detail, may explain the cause of the injury, and explains the necessary treatment and expected outcome.
- Prescription and pharmacy records, therapy notes, and surgical records are other commonly seen record types.
Streamline Mass Tort Medical Record Reviews
There may be no advantage to ordering all available records. Consult with a qualified medical professional and/or a qualified medical record review company to determine which records are the most relevant to the litigation and injury. Targeting the correct records for review will save time and keep costs down. Having a review partner can also offer guidance as to which data points to look for in medical records, depending on the injury.
Outsourcing Mass Tort Medical Record Reviews
Plaintiff fact sheet fulfillment and medical record review are both time consuming and often overwhelming tasks. Outsourcing is an increasingly popular solution for firms that do not have the capacity to deal with every aspect of complex litigation. When outsourcing, consider looking for a partner that can provide a complete solution to your needs – this reduces costs and minimizes the time you must devote to vendor management.
** Megan Heller, Esq. serves as the mass tort research manager for Epiq, where she serves as a subject matter expert on mass tort litigations and trends in the mass tort industry.