On Nov. 1, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Howard v. Svoboda
, a case dealing with the “informal conference” statute, which allows medical malpractice defense attorneys to speak with a plaintiff’s treating physicians without taking a deposition.
Attorneys for the defendant, Shelly Svoboda, MD, (a retired physician now in Oregon) argued that informal conferences provide medical malpractice defense attorneys the opportunity to gather facts about the treatment provided, and to assess the adequacy of the treatment at issue. This helps determine whether cases should be settled or defended.
The Supreme Court justices were interested in issues unrelated to the informal conference, such as whether the court had jurisdiction to decide the case and whether the case was now moot, through the passage of time. It is possible that the court will decide these ancillary matters and decline to address the informal conference issue.
The MMA has taken an interest in the case because informal conferences are a helpful, physician-friendly tool in medical malpractice defense. The MMA often advocates for its members in the court system by filing briefs as amicus curiae (”friend of the court”) when a case decision will have a great affect on physicians or health care in Minnesota.
The Court does not have a deadline for filing its opinion on the matter.