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Is There a Doctor in the Firm?

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Bainbridge Island, WAAttorney Chris Otorowski has built a medical malpractice law firm in Washington State on solid judgment, expert skills and from listening to the way he talks about the people he represents, a great deal of humanism. "On Friday, we visited a client in a nursing home who is in just a terrible situation, just a horrific story," says Otorowski. "She had circulation problems but the diagnosis was delayed. Her colon essentially ended up dying and she had to have her left leg amputated."

Chris OtorowskiThe 47-year-old woman has not been out of her nursing home for 2 years, and although she will never be able to live on her own, "We are working towards getting compensation that will allow her to get into a better living situation, Otorowski says."

Otorowski has been practicing law as a medical malpractice attorney for plaintiffs for 30 years. "You really have to have a fire in the belly to represent injured people who have no other way of obtaining justice," Otorowski says.

Three Nurse Lawyers and a Doctor
You also need a strong foundation of legal and medical expertise. The firm of Otorowski, Johnston, Diamond & Golden has six lawyers on staff, including three women who were nurses before they became lawyers. "Sometimes there is a difference between a medical problem and a legal issue and we have to differentiate between them," says Otorowski. Ten years ago, the firm hired a physician. "Dr. Jerome Carbone is a valuable resource and provides a great service to our clients—he reviews medical records and sometimes finds expert witnesses."

The first thing Otorowski does for a new client is get the charts. "The last thing that a client who comes to us with a medical issue wants is to get involved in a case that they can't win," Otorowski says. "There have to be significant damages and a clear case of negligence before we take their suit forward." About 100 people call the firm every month, but on average only two pass muster for litigation.

Risky Business
Otorowski say there were many reasons he chose medical malpractice law as a focus for his legal career. "It is kind of a risky way to make a living," he says, "but it can also be gratifying. If you're successful you can change people's lives for the good when they are hurt by some tragic circumstance."

Bee Stings and Steroids
Otorowski's firm has had its fair share of significant cases over the years and collected millions for injured clients.

  • Collected $5 million for a man who tested false negative for bee stings and then suffered anaphylactic shock and suffered brain damage after being stung by a yellow jacket.
  • Sued Bayer for producing a bee sting allergic testing kit that proved to be no better than a coin toss.
  • Involved in the Excedrin tampering case
  • Sued a Washington State County and a steroid manufacturer from New Jersey after a police officer on steroids shot an innocent woman and paralyzed her.

Making the Best of a Bad Situation
Clients come to see Otorowski with dozens of situations related to medical malpractice. "We see clinical misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, medical mistakes, instruments left behind during surgery, MRSA cases," he says. "It real runs the gambit." And if he can help Otorowski knows he's had a good day. "When someone has gone from being active and productive to someone who requires total care, it is gratifying to be able to provide for them in a way that gets them out of an institution and back home with enough money to look after them for the rest of their lives."

Chris Otorowski has been exclusively representing injured individuals since graduating from the University of Denver with his law degree in 1977. He received his BSBA in 1974 and was awarded his Masters in Business in 1977, both from the University of Denver. He also served as Assistant Attorney General in the Labor and Industries Division in Spokane.

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