Stacy Warden first approached me about her legal bill back in February.
Because this case already involved a jury trial with a final decision, I was quite skeptical about airing this story.
In most cases, reporters shouldn’t be in the business of second guessing jury decisions, especially since juries have seen more evidence and spent time in court listening to both sides of a case.
I tried my best not to approach this story in a way in which we were second guessing the jury. Even in my reporter standup, I mentioned the jury “had more information in this case than we do and saw all the evidence….”
My intent was to show the legal consequences of what could happen when you lose a lawsuit.
After showing some of the legal costs the Wardens faced to several attorney friends and acquaintances, I received a consistent reaction. Some of the “bill of cost” items listed in court documents seemed to be “unusual,” they said. One attorney even told me the costs appeared “quite vindictive.”
We had much discussion in our newsroom about moving forward with this story and I knew, if the hospital didn’t offer its perspective, it was going to be nearly impossible to come across as objective.
I reached out to the hospital twice for comment, and both times the hospital declined.
How do you be fair when one side doesn’t want to explain their perspective?
We moved forward with the story because you rarely hear from the losing side of such a case.
Here are some of the viewer reactions to the perceived bias:
“Shame on 9 news for writing such a blatantly biased story as to pick out seemingly trivial expenses incurred by the defense. Plain and simple, expenses are expenses. Why don’t you write a story about the overwhelming abuse of the legal system that is creating such high medical malpractice costs?” – Dr. Nils Albert, via Facebook
“It is unfortunate you chose to write such a one sided piece. Our justice system allows for the prevailing party to collect back their legal expenses and that is exactly what the prevailing party is doing in this case. Our system is burdened by frivolous and unfounded lawsuits every day and perhaps plaintiffs and their attorneys need to think about this more seriously.
All too often attorneys take on cases and promise the moon when the case easily speaks for itself. I do not know the specifics of this case but the jury heard the evidence and made its decision. That is how it works. All involved must be willing to accept the consequences.
To try and play the sympathy card like this family and KUSA has done nauseates me. Shame on you.” -Ann Kennedy, via Email.