Medical malpractice cases challenging, rewarding: Obradovich
Since he was called to the bar in 1981, Toronto personal injury lawyer Miles Obradovich has been practising civil litigation.
“Appearing in court and arguing cases is the essence of being a lawyer. It’s about advocacy and being able to help people with their problems or a wrong they need to have righted,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Many of Obradovich’s clients have experienced catastrophic personal injury or death due to negligence or malpractice.
While he does not appear in court as much as he used to, due to the changing nature of litigation, including its rising costs and the availability of alternative dispute resolution, Obradovich’s contact with clients — which he calls one of the most enjoyable aspects of his work — is undiminished.
“The pinnacle of what you’ve been trained to do doesn’t come as often because you’re not in court as frequently,” he says. “But the other side of that is we’re with people all the time, we’re always interacting.”
As the founding partner of Obradovich Law, the Toronto firm he established in 2004, Obradovich has been involved in personal injury since his articling days, but his practice has evolved over the past 15 years to become ever more focused on cases involving medical malpractice and negligence in health care. He has argued cases before the Ontario Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada and has conducted numerous trials, arbitrations and mediations.
His firm is actively investigating and pursuing actions in cases involving birth injury, joint replacement surgical error and failure to diagnose cancer.
“I find the work challenging and rewarding,” he says. “These people go through life-altering experiences and you can’t help but be moved by that.”
Medical malpractice cases tend to be more novel and varied than personal injury matters, he says. And Obradovich relishes the chance to engage with expert evidence and science, which is where his background lies, having studied theoretical math and physics as an undergraduate before moving on to law studies at the University of Toronto in the late 1970s.
Medical malpractice work can be deeply emotional and intensely human. Obradovich recounts one case in which he represented the parents of a baby who was improperly delivered, and died six weeks later. The discovery was a particularly fraught situation, as the lawyers for the defence were both pregnant.
“Everyone in the room was crying,” Obradovich says. “You have to be sensitive to the situation.”
In those particularly tough cases, he takes his cues from clients as to how to proceed.
“In my experience, people often prefer to keep going, even though they’ve been reminded of their grief, they want to continue.”
Recently Obradovich represented a woman after a hip replacement surgery where the surgeon operated on the wrong hip. After realizing the error, he proceeded to operate on the proper side, which made for a particularly difficult rehabilitation for the patient, Obradovich says.
“It’s hard to believe, but it happens,” he says. “In that situation, you have to take steps to ensure the client will be compensated for all their losses, which involves obtaining expert opinions as to what the future will look like for that person in terms of their medical care.”
While Obradovich’s role, strictly speaking, is to seek damages for clients, he is sometimes able to help advance policy changes through his work.
“When something goes wrong in a medical setting, the hospital will often arrange to meet with the patient and review the incident, and institute policy changes to reduce the likelihood of it happening again,” he says. “That seems to be happening more now.”
While Obradovich does not attend such sessions, as the presence of a lawyer has a chilling effect on communication, he often advises clients on how to handle them.
In cases involving deaths, coroner reviews — even without an inquest — can result in recommendations to improve the system, as can referrals to patient safety committees.
Along with his busy practice, Obradovich is frequent speaker and writer. He has lectured on behalf of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Along with blogging regularly about personal injury, many of his cases have been published in law reports.
Obradovich says this research and writing keep him informed and involved.
“That’s part of the process of developing experience in your area of law,” he says. “And once you’ve developed it, you’re able to impart that knowledge to your profession.”