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Why Admission of Liability Does Not Excuse Discovery Process

On occasion, we have negligence cases where the responsible parties admit liability. While the defendant always has the prerogative to admit liability that should never impede the ability of plaintiffs to obtain discovery and learn the truth of what actually occurred.

We recently had a case where an infant undergoing cardiac surgery at University of Michigan was subjected to intraoperative hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which resulted in severe brain damage. While the hospital admitted liability, it also was adamant that due to this admission, the responsible parties did not need to take part in depositions.

The hospital likely intended to avoid the embarrassment of a deposition and speed the process along, however, there are very sound reasons why responsible parties need to be deposed:

  1. The most significant reason is that the families of injured party have a right to understand what happened. This closure is emotionally meaningful for those grieving the loss of a loved one or dealing with a loved one’s serious, lifetime disability.
  2. It’s essential to understand who is actually responsible. Nobody wants to sue someone who is not culpable. Families want people responsible held accountable but do not want to embroil someone in a lawsuit who is not involved in the injury.
  3. Sometimes there are coverups or other misconduct surrounding the incident. Such activities – which could result in exemplary damages for the family – need to be discovered to best serve the client.
  4. Legal counsel is entitled to discovery if there is basis for an ordinary negligence claim.
  5. The plaintiffs are entitled to discovery if there may be a product liability claim surrounding the incident.

Bottom line is that an admission of liability does not and never should preclude the liable parties from participating in the legal discovery process. There are compelling legal and humanitarian reasons to do so. We argued this in court and the judge agreed with us. We will pursue the truth in this matter for our client’s benefit.

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